Sunday, December 6, 2009

Papa's Visit!

November 27, 2009

This is a long over due entry. You have been warned... Its LONG!

Papa’s Visit
Saturday, November 21, 2009 felt like the longest Saturday of my life. The day I had been looking forward to for six weeks was finally here. My papa was going to visit me in San Pedro Sula, Honduras to see where I had been living and what I had been doing since August 15, 2009, when he left me at the Chicago Airport. After trying to anxiously sleep Friday night, at eight o’clock I was up and at ‘em getting the house ready for my visitor. I did some laundry, watched a movie with Emily, took an afternoon nap, and made dinner. It felt like 8:50 was never going to come. Finally it was six-thirty, I had confirmed with my friend Dirian about going to pick my dad up. I sat waiting in front of the tv and thought maybe I should check the airline web page to se what the status of the flight was. Of course, to my dreadful unsurprised, my dad’s flight was going to be late. I didn’t know what to do with myself. Thankfully, when I called Dirian to let her know it was going to be later when my dad got in she said well, lets go get dinner and drinks and pass the time. She knew just what I needed to help make the last three hours of waiting for my father bearable. Yara, Dirian, Gerardo and I went to a funny gas station for dinner and anafres afterwards. They all teased me because I seemed nervous. I did feel nervous, not because I was worried about seeing my father again, but because I was really excited and I wanted it all to go well. I guess maybe a better word to describe how I was acting with them would have been distracted. I couldn’t be very present while waiting for my dad to arrive.
Finally at 12:15 or so, a gringo passed through the doors at the airport where a bunch of Honduran businessmen had passed through to my discontent moments earlier. I hugged my dad right away without letting him actually exit the marked off exit area. Suddenly my two worlds collided. Whether I was ready for it or not, I was going to have to share this amazing and emotional journey I had been on with someone who loved me. For some reason at that moment I felt it may be hard to connect the two worlds, but shortly after I would understand what a blessing it was to share my life here with someone back home. It was also very sweet to see how happy for me my friends where. Everybody’s eyes had a special glow in them and a smile on their face when they saw me waiting for, greeting, and then sticking close to my dad on the way home.
Dirian and Gerardo brought us back to the apartments. Dad and Yara had already hit it off as I knew they would. We sat in my living room chatting while drinking Quilmes beer and eating chips and salsa. It still felt surreal that my papa was in my living room in Honduras. A living room that has felt so lonely and empty suddenly was a place I wanted to be. I showed my dad around upstairs where I had prepared an apartment for him. All my third graders picked a letter in the phrase “bienvenido a Honduras”- Welcome to Honduras- to decorate my dads room with. The whole back wall was covered in bright construction paper, and I felt thankful for my third graders who helped me welcome my father. It sure warmed up the room well since it was not lived in and white and boring.
Sunday morning, we woke up and got ready to go to church. We walked with Brenda to the home and instantly I had this weird feeling of my two worlds crashing together. As I walked in the door the usual sweet girls were hugging me and greeting me, but then they welcomed and hugged my father too. They were so happy for me that my father could be visiting. I worried about how it would feel to these beautiful girls whose fathers had left them for many different reasons that my father, who has loved me and cared for me, made the trip all the way from the United States to see his daughter in little Honduras. I was amazed that they showed no hard feelings like this at all. These girls are filled with an amazing amount of love for everyone they come across. I didn’t feel much like myself that morning. I guess I felt unsure about how to bridge the gap between my life in Honduras and my life at home in the States, but I went with the flow and my dad and the girls made it happen for me. I was relieved of any pressure of introducing them or making conversation flow. We just were all together and I tried to relax.
As we got off the bus and waited for church to start my dad and I had a moment of happy tears. Not anything dramatic, but we just had a good conversation about what I was doing here. All through the service I had goosebumps. For the first time in my time in Honduras I felt proud of what I was doing, and I felt like someone cared I was doing it. It was so great to see my life and work from an outsiders point of view. As always after communion all the littler girls came out of Sunday school and joined me and my father in the pew. We wrapped our arms around each other and sang the final songs. I love these girls, and I am so thankful my dad gets to meet these girls who have found a special place in my heart.
After church we hopped back on the bus and I was feeling much more comfortable with the situation. I asked the tia if my dad could have lunch with the girls and she assured me that would be fine. We were served a huge plate full of rice and noodles. It was really good! Abby, Riccy, and Damaris, sat near us chatting away. Riccy seemed so happy to see my dad and to tease him. Riccy speaks great English and loves to have the chance to practice it even if she is a little shy about it.
It was time for my usual Sunday afternoon nap that I look forward to every week. When we woke up we decided to head to 105 Brigada, a military academy and fort in the city. They have festivals on the weekends of live music and lots of dancing. We met Emily, Yara, and her family there. Good times were had dancing the afternoon away. At six we left to have dinner at Peco’s Bill; a delicious Honduran restaurant that feels like a huge tree house. I had lomo al parilla a thinly sliced steak and my dad had a pork chop. We all shared a cubetazo, bucket of beer, and conversed about the different things about Honduras. After dinner we headed home to call it an early night. I was very nervous about teaching the next morning with my dad able to see what I was doing. I needed my sleep 
Monday morning we were up by 5:30 and getting ready for the day. My dad walked with me to school and saw how I go about my usual Monday routine. Unfortunately, on Mondays I teach second grade, my naughtiest and least favorite class, three times! I guess it was a good opportunity for my dad to see how hard I am working here. On Mondays we meet in the chapel in the morning to have actos civicos or civic acts. The Social Studies teacher talked about what the world folklore meant and then about how important discipline is. The discipline lecture was surely added on at the last minute due to the fact that the director of Our Little Roses was there. My dad had a chance to talk with Diana a little bit about the elections coming up in Honduras. She had very strong opinions and my dad found that out quickly. At least it was a taste of what some Hondurans think is the case.
In each of my classes that day I had the kids introduce themselves and something about themselves or about their country they were proud of. It wasn’t a great activity though because most of my kids have a hard time sitting through class while I am teaching, let alone while there twenty classmates share something about themselves. I tried to go along with my regular lesson plans Monday but the kids were excited to have my dad in class and some of them acted out to get attention. That was hard for me, and a complete shock, I hadn’t thought of how it would affect the students to have a guest. Finally we made it to recess, my dad had a gringa (a tortilla with cheese and ham melted inside) and I had nachos from the school cafeteria. I had a couple more classes to teach but I sent papa home to have a nap and wait till I got out of school at 2:30. I then took my usual afternoon nap and when I woke up I decided we should head to the coca-cola sign.
The coca-cola sign is up in the mountains surrounding San Pedro. I love to run up the mountain on Saturday mornings when I get the chance. It’s a great workout and it gets that heart pumping! Anyway, we walked up to the coca-cola, and my dad made it even though he was afraid the whole way up he might not. We took pictures from the top and then quickly decided to head back down so we could get a taxi before it got too dark. When we got home I made my dad a yummy dinner of left over meat from Peco’s Bill, garlic noodles, and a baked potato. It was delicious if I do say so myself 
Again we headed to bed early. I got up and headed to school on my own Tuesday morning feeling as if I would have a little more control over my classroom and feel like a better teacher if I started out alone. All the kids kept asking me where my dad was. He came to the school for my last class before recess and then sat with me and my teacher friends over lunch. After lunch we gathered all the students who were going to help me with the Thanksgiving service prayers to practice in the chapel. We practiced reading the prayer and then speaking loudly. The rest of the day was a planning period for me so we sat in the teacher’s lounge and I graded papers while we caught up. We headed to tutor the girls as I do three days a week. I felt so proud of my dad this afternoon because he just bit the bullet and got to helping a girl named Diana in fourth grade with her science and English homework. I loved to see them working together. My dad jumped in there faster than I have and I have been here for three months. It was very cool. I helped Catherine with her math homework… I’m getting less and less afraid of math! Isn’t that great Xan?
We went home after tutoring and had our normal rest time after school. Then my dad and I were ready to have some chill time together and we needed to find an ATM. So we headed out to the mall. We got money out of the ATM and had a great dinner for two at Pizza Hut. I know, I know, not very Honduran, but delicious anyway! We went home and spent a long time talking in Dad’s room just connecting again.
Wednesday, dad met me at school again for recess. It was so great to have someone see the experience of recess as it was one of the things that took the most getting used to. The kids run around like crazy and sometimes the teachers come out to “watch” them or to eat their own lunch. We practiced the Thanksgiving service prayers again and the six children had greatly improved from the day before! Another great thing about having visitors is that they can take pictures for you. My dad took a picture of me with each of my classes. I’m thankful to have those pictures to look back on. After school I had a teachers meeting that lasted almost two hours! It was terrible to sit through knowing that my dad was waiting for me at home. We had very exciting plans and I wanted to get the afternoon started! When I got out of my meeting I grabbed Dirian and ran home to pick up my dad. We quickly hopped into Dirian’s car to head to Diunsa, a target like store, to buy MARATHON jerseys. We had tickets to the Marathon game that night and we needed to be suited up for victory! It was a zoo at the store, it seemed like everyone and their brother was getting a shirt. We looked around and were shocked by the prices. We had started wondering if maybe we didn’t want to get a shirt when a woman who works at the store found me a shirt that was on sale for 200 lempiras (about ten dollars) that was originally 900 lempiras (about 45 dollars). Then she found my dad a similar sale. We hit the jackpot. Now we were ready to head to the stadium. Good thing because we had about ten minutes once we were back at the house before Yara’s family came to pick us up to bring us to the stadium. Once we arrived near the stadium we had to walk quite a ways. People were selling tickets and t-shirts, hats and flags, even stuffed animals of the mascots. Soccer is no joke here! So we got to the gate and there was a huge long line, so Yara’s family just said, get in line and we just made our way to the front of the line. A couple people moaned and groaned, but we couldn’t separate from each other so we just went for it. Once we got inside I bought my dad a baleada. The “typical” Honduran food that they are very proud of. A fresh hot tortilla with beans and cheese inside.
Then we headed into the stadium. The lights were beautiful on the bright green field. We started noticing that the men in Yara’s family were Olimpia fans (depressing I know) and they led us to sit on the Olimpia side. We weren’t the only Marathon fans… there were some split families and couples that reminded me of the MSU/UM families in Michigan. I don’t know how I can explain all the craziness that ensued. First you should know that Marathon was ahead the whole game and controlled the ball the whole game. It really didn’t seem fair actually. I don’t know what happened to Olimpia but I’m glad Marathon won. It was certainly a fun game to be a Marathon fan. These people are intense about their soccer games. You may have seen pictures or videos of fans climbing up the fences and climbing around the barbed wire, we saw that in real life. Its normal to throw trash out onto the field when you get angry over a refs call or when your team scores. And the craziest thing of all is that there were fireworks going off everywhere! A lot of the fans lit big fire crackers in the middle of huge mobs of fans and everyone would just hoot and hollar and dance in the smoke. Thankfully we were in a very tranquil part and none of this was happening around us. People even lit fireworks and then held them while they shot off their bright colorful sparks. At moments it was got nerve racking, my dad especially was nervous when I was tooting my horn and hollaring for Marathon after it was clear we had won. Vicotry is so sweet its hard to tame it no matter where you are sitting 
At the end of the game the Marathon fans… did I forget to mention that this game determined the champions of the whole country for this year?... broke through the fence to rush the field and be a part of the cup ceremony. The police tried to hold the fans back but there were just too many and not enough police. Imagine something like five-hundred people trying to rush through a 12 foot hole in a fence. A little bit further down closer to where we were sitting people found a whole in the barbed wire and started flooding through there also. They had to jump about 16 feet I would guess after they climbed over the top. These people will risk a lot to celebrate an awesome victory!
We didn’t though. As soon as the Marathon fans started heading over to the Olimpia side to rub in the win, and as the Olimpia fans started getting riled up and trying to enter the field we decided we should probably head out. We rushed back to the car but we didn’t have any problems on the way home. Everyone seemed to be pretty chill about the situation. We hurried home and went to bed after a wonderful evening of cultural fun!
Happy Thanksgiving! I got to sleep in a little bit because we had a thanksgiving service at school and then a meal together. Papa had helped me throughout the week with getting my part of the service, the prayers, ready with my kids who were going to read. At the last minute Brenda asked me to translate for her because she was going to give a little introduction to our service. I at first wanted to say no, how about another teacher translates, but then Brenda said no you can do it. So I translated on the spot for Brenda and I felt so good about it. I’m really getting this Spanish thing down. Yara and Papa came together to the service, dripping wet I might add because it was a very rainy day. After the wonderful service that was tear jerking for me, all the kids went upstairs and ate in their classrooms. One of the teachers moms made chicken mashed potatoes and corn for every kid. It was sweet to see all the students put their chairs in circles to eat together. After all the students left, we went out to dinner with all the teachers. We went to a fancy casino and had a delicious thanksgiving meal. Bishop Frade paid for our meal and we had a very nice time with the teachers. We went back home and had a quick nap before we went out all together to Don Udos a dutch restaurant for Brenda’s birthday. It was unfortunately not a great time, the waiter tried to screw us over and over again and I had to fight with him every step of the way. My food wasn’t that great but the conversation was good. We went to bed quickly after we got home because the next morning we had to be up very early to catch a bus to Utila.
Oh Friday… Friday Friday Friday. One thing sticks out in my head from this day. The ferry ride of doom. I’ll get to that. First we took a taxi to the bus station to get a bus to la ceiba a city on the edge of Honduras. We showed up at the bus station before anything opened and were reminded again that Hondurans don’t do anything early. We waited at the stop for about an hour before we got on the bus to la ceiba. One funny thing that still makes me laugh is that one of the people getting on the bus was really sleepy this morning and she walked right into the window… like full out comedy sketch ran into the window. I do feel bad for her but it was really funny. I’m sorry to be rude but you would’ve laughed too if you saw it.
Anyway, we got to la ceiba eager and ready to go. We loaded our backpacks on the ferry and I remember saying to my dad, um are all these people going to fit on that boat? It looked like there were way to many people to fit. Anyway, we all piled on running through the rain. This ferry boat was, what Emily calls a plexiglass bubble of hell, and a warped steal torture chamber. The first twenty minutes were kind of fun. We free fell over and over again probably atleast ten feet. It felt a little bit like cedar point. It took a turn for the worst when the woman infront of me started vomiting, and then the little girl behind me, and then her grandmother and then Emily. The whole boat smelled like vomit and there was no fresh air. Thankfully Brenda lent me her chapstick and a piece of mint gum to try to fend off the terrible smell. I didn’t get sick, and neither did papa, but it took all the energy we had to not toss our cookies. Blah! I have never been so thankful to get off the boat.
We arrived on the cute little island of Utila and checked out our hotel. Our hotel, Utila Lodge, was a great place. It had a lot of space to eat and sit around that looked over the water. We rested and tried to recover from the ferry ride for a long time reading, snoozing in the hammock, and watching the rain pour down.
Saturday we woke up to still more rain. I think it rained for at least 24 hours straight. But again we enjoyed ourselves anyway. The food at the lodge was delicious and we got some very good R and R in. We decided Saturday afternoon to take a walk through the little town. People were out, and thankfully the rain did stop a bit. I asked around for a long sleeve shirt or sweatshirt but of course they don’t sell warm clothes on the island. I was freezing! Later in the afternoon between naps and reading, Emily, papa, and I did a crossword. It felt like I was at home again sitting in Papa’s house.
On a side note, on Saturday the owner of the lodge told us “the Spanish are coming!” referring to the elections that were going to be happening the next day. I said what? The Spanish? And she said o you know, the Hondurans, they’re all the same. I was very offended but I think she understood that and felt a little sheepish about what she said. I can only hope. Anyway, apparently one of the mayoral candidates had threatened to bring over some Honduran mainlanders to vote on Utilas island. The proud island people did not like that so I guess some drama was going down.
Sunday we woke up and there was sunshine! There was finally a break in the rain. We were overwhelmed with what we should do to pass the beautiful day. We spent time taking naps and reading in the morning and then went to go rent bikes! We rented bikes from a very sweet family who just had a bunch of bikes in their garage. For five bucks each we got the bike for the whole day. We biked around the back side of the island and stopped every once in a while to check out the shore. Emily and I hadn’t prepared for sun though so we had to go back early and put some sunscreen on. It was almost time for lunch at the lodge anyway so it was no problem. We ate and then spent three hours out on the deck reading, swimming, and finally feeling like we were on vacation near the ocean. Dad and I took our bikes on another trip around the other side of the Island and found a public beach. A team of twenty somethings were playing soccer on the beach with little stick goals. It was very cool to see but they almost hit papa with their ball. They all kind of sheepishly laughed and I wished I had thought of something witty to say to them. The problem is, in Utila, you don’t know if people speak English, Spanish, an islander something, or a mix of all three. So I was all mixed up in how I should talk to people. Sunday night we ate at Evelyn’s bar-b- que. It was very yummy.
We went to bed early Sunday again because we had to get up early to make the journey back to the city. Papa and I were awakened by the screaming and celebrating of people on the island about the election results. We walked outside and watched people pass in the street from behind the gate where we were locked in at the hotel. I just love the way Latinos celebrate anything and everything. What a wonderful way to live. Anyway, so Monday we had to get up early and had to step back onto that ferry if you can believe it. Thankfully the weather was much better. I actually slept the whole way back on papa’s lap. Then we had to take a long bus trip back to the city. I had to haggle with a lot of the taxi drivers to get a reasonable price but finally we all ended up back at home ready to chill. Later in the evening we went out to Karinas, a very Honduran bar that has great food for very cheap. We had fried chicken, tajadas (plantain chip dealys) and chimol, a mix of tomatoes, green pepper and onion all cut up and mixed together. It was all delicious and cost only three American dollars! We had a great talk with my friend Carlos, our neighbor, about the political situation in Honduras. He had a very interesting point of view and it was good to hear another side of the story rather than what the rich media people are producing. When we got home papa packed up his stuff.
Early Tuesday morning, I had one last chance to say goodbye to my papa. Thankfully this wasn’t too terrible because I knew I would see him in just three weeks. I went to school that morning, sad but also very content and happy to have such a great family.
I am so thankful for my dad’s visit. It has helped put things in perspective here. Thank you papa for taking the time and spending the money to come visit me!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

November 1 B

November 1, 2009
I’ve got to hang on to these when I have them, because they can easily and quickly fade into the constant exhaustion of being a teacher.
I had to give exams last week so in order to study for them and prepare for them with my first graders I came up with a really simple game. I had all the questions from the exam, and a couple more to get them thinking, prepared ahead of time. I split the class up into two groups. I asked them what they wanted to be called. The first team picked “Honduras” not very original but sweet how proud of their little country they are. The second team then picked The United States. The kids here in Honduras are always on a soccer kick, no pun intended, and Honduras had just played the US. Anyway, I then asked each team a question. My normal rules for games are no shouting, you must raise your hand, you must be in your seat, and your team will lose points if you are a bad sport. My students raised their hands to answer my questions from the exam and if they got it right they got to draw and X or an O on the big Tic Tac Toe squares I had written on the board. They loved it. Tic tac toe in Spanish is called equis o cero.
Everyone was having a good time and they were answering almost all the questions right until suddenly one team won. I don’t even remember if it was the United States or Honduras that won, but winning and losing is not easy as a first grader. Part of this teaching experience has been learning how young my students really are. Often my expectations are too high and I have to readjust to fit their ability level. Anyway, I learned that next time we play a review game, it will have to be the whole class against the teacher. It seems like a simple good idea now, but until you understand that its hard for first graders to lose do you think of such ideas. I’m eager to try this next time because I think it could encourage some good teamwork also.
I also learned this first quarter that first graders and second graders actually are too young to be able to keep track of papers. This is a problem since Phonics is basically worksheet after worksheet out of a work book. I used to have them hand in the papers I was going to be grading but they either didn’t make it to me after they tore the page out, or they never tore it out, or some alien or puppy at it. Who knows, anyway this past week I have had numerous parents, (of course only the parents whose children are doing well) ask me about the pages. Next quarter I will be collecting the Phonics workbook every Friday and not tearing out any pages of the book. Hopefully the first graders and I will have better luck with this strategy.
You live you learn right? As I write this entry I realize how much I love first graders. They are a great age. They are who they are, they do not change anything about themselves for others to like them. They hardly ever do anything wrong on purpose, and they just make me laugh with some of the things, noises and sentences, that come out of their mouths and brains. I’m eager to see them tomorrow.

November 1 A

November 1, 2009
First things first; happy baptism to my sweet nephew Asher H.R. Morgan! I have not been able to talk with my family today because our internet is once again down. I’m sure today was a joyous occasion. I’m so thankful to be a part of the Christian family that Asher joined today. I feel loved and supported by so many people in the church I’m eager to watch Asher grow up in his own church community as his brother Emmanuel has already started. Asher you have been in my head and heart today. I love you and welcome you into the loving, forgiving, patient arms of God.
A couple days after I arrived in San Pedro Sula I was sitting outside with some of the girls between the ages of 9 and 13 watching them play hop-scotch. I was emotionally exhausted from the newness of everything, probably physically exhausted also, and one of the girls named Rosa was not very nice to me at all. I was shocked by her cold reaction to my trying to get to know them. I wasn’t exactly sure what to say at that point, but I waited and tried to continue hanging out. Rosa was dancing while playing hop-scotch in a very sexual way. It was so weird to see this 12 year old little girl dancing the way she was. I hurt for her, and because of that hurt, and how she had hurt me by being unwelcoming I kept my distance from Rosa. I think I reacted because it just felt like she was too much, I couldn’t relate to her and wanted to protect myself from the hurt and embarrassment she had caused me. Anyway, about two months passed of being cordial but never actually connecting. We’d play against each other on the soccer field and say hello during school but nothing more, ever. Then last week, or maybe two weeks ago, everything blurs together after awhile, I had the opportunity to connect with Rosa. I was helping a sixth grader Catherine with her math homework when Rosa called me over to help her. I jumped at the chance. I walked right over to her and asked her what she was doing.
My normal reaction would have been to tell her that I was busy with Catherine and that she needed to wait till I was done, but something came over me and I reacted in a way that proved to be key. I asked Catherine to move with me over to the table where Rosa was working so I could help them both. Catherine was working on the most beginning stages of learning factoring which I could only figure out thanks to her book, and Rosa was doing long multiplication. PS you should know that I HATE math! Anyway, I was actually helping them with math, big deal. But the best thing of all was that I had fun with Rosa, and it gave me the opportunity to see a wonderful side of her. We laughed and it felt like we were playing a game together to get her math homework done.
We didn’t have any “you mean the world to me” moments, but it is another little victory that God has blessed me with. These girls, injured and hurt in more ways than I can even imagine or understand are beautiful children of God. I am thankful for their presence in my life.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

October 29, 2009

October 29, 2009
Today, I am sitting in the teachers lounge at school with time to update my blog, and study for the GRE. This week was exam week and so the students have a different schedule, they arrive at the same time but they get out of school at eleven-thirty. I gave all of my exams on Tuesday and Wednesday so today, and tomorrow I have to come to school but I have nothing to do. I already finished all my grading, but I am going to wait to hand it in until Friday because I told my students they could do so.
I filled out little half sheets of paper for everyone of my students, that’s about seventy, about what they are missing in my classes. Some students aren’t missing anything while others, particularly one student in my 2nd grade class is missing “un monton!” a huge amount. Arleth has missed over three weeks of school and has made no attempt to catch up. Her mother has asked the principal to not grade her at all for this bimester and then have next bimester count for two. The way the people think of school around here is a little crazy. Anyway, all week I have had to speak with mothers of my students explaining why they were probably missing the assignment. Of course, I can’t say well your daughter is always out of her seat and usually not paying attention, so she probably just didn’t get her paper to me when it was due. Instead I try to explain that she probably lost the paper and that we can make another copy for her to do. Now though, as it has reached Thursday, I have learned that I will never do this sort of thing again. For a couple of reasons, first and foremost it feels like they should’ve done the assignment when I asked. Every time I accept late work I feel like my deadlines mean less. I also knew it would require more work from me to send out the missing homework sheet but I don’t think I really knew how much more work! It’s too much! Most of my colleagues were saying I was crazy to write what they were missing, and I just thought, well I care about my students and that they get good grades. But the truth is that their grades are not going to change much by handing in one or two worksheets.
It’s been a double whammy of culture shock to be teaching and to live in a foreign country. The way they do things here in the school is so unusual to me, and even when I try really hard to understand it I often just say, well I guess its how it is, and move on, because I don’t think I ever will actually understand. For instance, (you knew this was coming with a follow up story didn’t you?) about two weeks ago we were told we had to write exams for the end of the first quarter. I felt stumped by the idea that I had to create an exam for first through third graders. I stopped into the office to see if Miss Evelyn could help me understand what I should do. She said oh you can do it, (insert nodding head here) no problem, just include pictures and ask them to draw pictures, to see if they understood all the stories. So, after that conversation with her I realized I just have to do my best. So I spent a whole Sunday, as did Emily and Brenda, writing exams that covered the whole first quarter. They were due on Monday to Miss Evelyn so that she could check them before making all the copies. The week before our exams were due our reviews for the exams were due and I included everything we have covered at all in my classes. Anyway, once the parents saw how much was going to be covered in my exams they were nervous and thought it was too much for their children.
The homeroom teachers were actually mad at me for making my exam too long, and all the while I thought it was what was expected of me. On this day I felt very frustrated. The homeroom teachers, the people I usually count on to be my allies were mad at me. And I mean mad, Erika, who was my friend at the beginning was literally yelling at me telling me I had done it wrong. As I think back to it I realize how lost I really was. I asked to meet with Miss Evelyn to know for sure what the deal was and to ask if I needed to change my exam. She told me that she thinks the exams should cover the whole period of time and not just the last unit. I think she was just telling me this though, and I feel like she probably explains that I don’t understand how it works in Honduras because I’m the American volunteer. I don’t know this for sure, so I have to let it go but she did tell me that next time we will write our exams over just the last chapters. So in the end, I will change my exams, but the thing that really upset me is that apparently the administration had a meeting about my exams. It would be fine to have a meeting about my exams if they invited me to explain what I knew. So I felt like I was being reprimanded for something I did wrong, but all I’m trying to do is what is right. So anyway all my students did well on the exams and my third graders, the class with the crabbiest parents, had an average of 88 %. I think that is a great result and I’m proud of the fact that I pushed them and believed in them when their parents didn’t.

Friday, October 23, 2009

October 17 b

October 17, 2009
Wow, what an experience this week has been. Last Saturday Emily and I headed out to a bar with some co-workers to watch Honduras play the United States. We both had already bought are jerseys and were ready to support Honduras all the way so I didn’t think about being in any danger. In the end the United States beat Honduras and suddenly I felt less safe. People weren’t flat out rude to us but it was clear that we weren’t welcomed the same. Everybody sure gets in bad moods around here if they lose a soccer game. We ended up making the best of it, having fun with some friends, and then thankfully, Wednesday the 14 made up for it!
So Emily and I knew that the Honduran team was playing El Salvador on Wednesday night and we knew we wanted to watch it. We both thought it unlikely that they would win and from our Saturday experience we were eager to just stay home and watch the game together. A couple friends of ours and our housemate Yara also joined us for the game. We decided to order a pizza and had a blast together. The outlook was not good for Honduras because the United States also had to beat Costa Rica in order to actually make it to the World Cup. We were switching back and forth from one channel to the next to watch as much of each game as we could. Honduras was winning but the United States was behind most of the game. It was Costa Rica 2, United States 1, and in literally the last moments of the game an American headed a ball into the goal. At the time we didn’t quite understand what this meant… but as time passed we realize Honduras and the United States, after all the scoring was figured out, were headed to the World Cup! It was so exciting.
It is awesome to be here in such an important time in Honduras history. Of course, the political situation comes to mind first, but these people love their soccer and they haven’t been to the world cup since 1982! Honduras deserves this pick me up.
Needless to say we had to change out of our lounge around clothes and celebrate that fact that VAMOS AL MUNDIAL! We met up with some more friends down town and watched people fill the streets. Every car had someone hanging out the window, pick up trucks were full of people in the back, some cars even had whole families with little children sitting on top! Honduran flags everywhere, everyone sporting their Honduran Selection jerseys, horns blowing, and smiles! Lots and lots of smiles! It was awesome! I felt a little nervous once because we got caught up in a big crowd of people hooting and hollering but we got out of there quickly. It’s beautiful to see a whole country coming together and being so happy. I will never forget this experience!
Soccer becomes much more exciting when you get to watch it with people who are so pumped!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

October 17

October 17, 2009
Well I have a happy story about a girl at the home and a sad story. I guess I’ll start with the sad so I can end on a happy note.
Nicole Rojas Mejia, is a girl from the home and is also in my second grade class. She has always had an attitude in school but we have had fun playing together outside of the teacher student relationship. Anyway, on Wednesday of this past week she was eating candy in class. I really don’t feel like this is a big deal but it’s a rule that all the students have to follow and so I have to enforce it for everyone. I asked her to give me her sucker and she said that she was going to wrap it up and save it for later. I agreed with her proposal but then she couldn’t find her wrapper and continued to eat it in my class. I asked her to throw it away and she gave me this giant attitude about how I wasn’t her mother and I couldn’t make her do anything. I said Nicole would you like to discuss this with Ms. Evelyn the principal… and she said yes, so I said ok lets go to the principal’s office then. I took her hand in mine and she ripped it out and then started screaming at me. I left the room to get some help with her and in the end no one could get her to leave the room. She sat in her seat the rest of class not participating. I felt bad about her undermining my authority in front of the whole class and wasn’t sure what to do. I went to ask Ms. Evelyn about it later and she informed me that she had already suspended her for Thursday because she has had an attitude with the homeroom teacher also. It turned out that the incident with me became the breaking point for her getting into a lot of trouble. They take it very seriously when the girls misbehave in the home so she has missed out on a lot of extra activities.
Ok, so the hard part for me is that she has been avoiding me since. I actually, after my experience tonight, prefer the ignoring Nicole rather than the attitude Nicole. I was walking by the home after the folkloric festival today and all the girls were looking out the windows trying to see what was going on. I went and talked to Melissa a little bit about running to the coca-cola sign with the girls next Saturday and then I went to the next window to say hi to those girls. I didn’t realize that Nicole was at the window, and before I had a chance to say anything, or to decide to walk away she had slammed the window shut in my face. I just smiled at her she made a snotty face back at me and then that was it. I walked away reminding myself that I will love her unconditionally and that I can handle her attitude… but it obviously still did not feel good.
The happier story is about another girl in second grade. Riccy is a total sweet heart and is a great student. She has a happy spirit and we seemed to have really clicked. Her birthday was last week and so at church last Sunday she got to go up for her Birthday prayer. After they pray they sing to all the people with birthdays that past week. Riccy turned around with a huge smile on her face and was just radiating with pride that she had turned ten years old. I got teary and felt the way I imagine a mother would feel about her daughter. I love Riccy and am so thankful for the opportunity to get to know her and to help educate her so that she can become some one that only she can imagine.
On Friday I found out that the dog I grew up with, Max, had to be put down. I got the news before I went to school so I was trying not to think about it too much, but the truth is it was very sad for me. I know everyone has to go through pets dying, and I’ve coped well, but he was still a great dog that I will miss greatly. Anyway all day Friday I was trying to stay happy, and at the end of school Riccy had written me a card saying that she would miss me when I moved back to the states. I told her how much it meant to me to get that card that day. A blessing no doubt, that this particular day she felt like writing me a card.
So there are ups and downs to this job, but in the end, I’m learning from everything and amazed by God’s presence in my life over and over again!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

October 7

October 7, 2009
I have felt probably every emotion under the sun the past 24 hours. I’m sure its just another way culture shock manifests itself but I feel like I need to recap it all for those of you who find my emotions interesting… or atleast I bother you enough to read my blog that you feel it is necessary to stay updated ;-)
Yesterday, I felt lost and pondered for the first time what it would be like to come home early. Before you fret please know that I only thought about it. As I think about it I feel like it would be worse to leave this organization then to bite the bullet and get through the next year. I’m still getting used to the fact that I’m not in college anymore. That means a whole lot of change even if I wasn’t in another country. Ok so because I have been feeling a little bit down, I find it hard to find things to write about. I guess it’s a coping mechanism.
Today I woke up in a pretty foul mood, just trying to cope. Anyway, once I got to school I was asked to help out with Third grade because Erika hurt her back and wasn’t able to come in to school. I didn’t have lesson plans for her class so we played heads up seven up, an old favorite of mine, and then we made cards for Erika. I really do love these kids, and they love me. It is wonderful to be able to just have fun with them once in a while without pressure that they need to be learning something from me.
I made it through all my morning classes and after lunch I was asked to go to a meeting for Eduardo. (I wrote about him in an earlier post, he is the boy that has a learning disability). He has been behaving bad every once in a while and sometimes he puts the other children in danger. The parents don’t help much with the situation so we have had to keep track of everything he does. Today was the breaking point. Yesterday he stabbed me with his pencil randomly while I was in front of the class teaching. It didn’t hurt and he apologized right away, (he does not have control over the actions of his body) but I still had to report it. I gave him a long talk about how it could’ve been my eye and blah blah blah but then later in the day he did the same thing to a student who then started bleeding. So in order to protect itself the school had to meet with the parents today about expelling him. (of course this is after many many many incidents) They pulled him out of class today and kept him in the principals office. I sat with him every free period I had. We colored, played hide and seek, tic tac toe, and just talked. He drew me a picture of his family where his dad was hitting him. I just hate the fact that I am here in Honduras and can’t get this boy the help he really needs. We had an IEP meeting of sorts about him today. The focus was about whether we were going to ask him to leave our school, and near the end of the meeting, unable to stop myself I said what about this kids parents? They clearly hit him and Eduardo is afraid, what can we do about it? They looked at me with pity and said, in Spanish of course, this is not the United States; we can’t do anything about it. There are too many kids being hurt by their parents. I sat back took a deep breath and tried to relax. I felt so angry that we are going to leave this kid to be home alone with his father who beats him. So anyway, I don’t want to dwell on what I can’t change but it was wonderful to sit with him today. He is an absolutely great kid one on one. I will miss him.
Then I went to the home to tutor the girls. I always feel too tired to tutor and wish I didn’t have to go, but after getting there I always feel so happy for the friendship of the girls. We laugh and joke and get some homework done in between J I love the girls in the home! I have to remember every morning that I am here for their sake. I teach so that the school can raise money to make sure these girls have their needs met. I hope that I can remember that and I pray that everyday I will feel blessed to be able to be a part of such an amazing organization.

October 1st

October 1, 2009
I can’t believe its October already. I am trying to stay away from the aching part of my thoughts that reminds me what its like to wear jeans and a sweatshirt to class in the morning, and how wonderful it was to look forward to Saturday Cross Country meets. The heat here is non-stop 90 degrees.
I want to make sure that I stay current with my blog entries, but it doesn’t feel like much has changed. All the beginning excitement has worn off and I’m trying to get used to the idea that this is my life. I usually find joy in overcoming challenges but the trick is that I have always chosen to overcome challenges I enjoy. Does that mean it is no longer a challenge? It is certainly a new challenge to be here teaching every day with a smile on my face and patience for my students. I’m bored, it gets old teaching consonants vs vowels, reading comprehension of Ramona Quimby, and obedience; saying that though, it has gotten much better. I can do anything for a year right?
I have gotten to know everyone around here much more, for better or worse. My housemates and I are all still making our co-habitation work even though we are all very different. At school though, some of the teachers who were really nice and friendly to us at the beginning seem to be backing off a bit. Maybe its just a phase they are going through or we are going through but its strange. I’m coming from just spending four years with all of my best friends, so I never had to guess what they were thinking or feeling… I just knew J Those of you who are reading this Oh I miss you so! I also feel a little bit like once they realized I can get around on my own and speak Spanish they were less interested because I tried to make it clear I wanted them as friends and not as caregivers. This is just speculation of course, they could just be very busy. So take it all with a grain of salt but what’s a blog if I can’t speculate why I feel the way I do?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

October 1

Wow I can't believe its October already. I guess since I'm completing my second month here I should get some photos of where I live up! My pictures uploaded backwards than what I planned but... thats ok... right?
This is the view from my room. Gorgeous mountains that I try to peek at every morning just to remind myself how little my task for the day is.
You can't see it in the picture but I can see the famous coca-cola sign from my window, and at night it lights up! I have run up that mountain once, I hope to do it again.

The view of my bathroom door, and my little kitchen sink area. The sun looks pretty in this picture but its HOT!
My bed, I love the head board. Its perfect for all the pictures of the ones I love!

The view of my room from my kitchen sink and my door. That is my wall of love with all the pictures my students make for me. Cozy little place isn't?

My kitchen sink and desk when I walk in my door.

Ok, Thats all, another post to come soon!

Love you all!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

September 22 (b)

September 22, 2009
Because I have some free time today I feel like I can finally catch up on some of the blog entries I have wanted to write but haven’t had the time.
This past Sunday I had a little bit of a break down. I was too tired, nervous about going back to school after going on vacation for a whole week, and trying to talk to my mom on skype and it wasn’t working. Skype can be my best friend or my worst enemy depending on the day. Anyway, my mom gave me her great mom advice, sleep! I did get some sleep and started to feel much better. My housemates also suggested we go out to dinner so we went to Applebees and I got my favorite zesty ranch chicken sandwich. Things were looking up for me.
But nonetheless I feel as if I need to acknowledge for myself a little bit more about why this year is difficult. If I can write about them and understand them maybe I wont feel negatively about this experience but more proud of the fact that I am here doing it. So bare with me while I talk about why this is hard, if it doesn’t interest you as always no harm no foul.
Where to begin, the first and most difficult thing I have encountered is that I am not in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I knew my ticket said San Pedro Sula, Honduras, but I think deep down I was hoping to just replicate my wonderful experience in Argentina. The truth is though, that if Chicago is BsAs then I’m living in a much more dangerous Hickory Corners . This continues to be a shock to me. The city infrastructure is terrible, there is trash everywhere, I have to take a taxi to get anywhere other than the school and the bus system seems unapproachable for foreigners. I am in a city that does not feel like a city but has all the possible dangers of a big city.
Its HOT! And HUMID! I’m constantly sweaty around here. I’m realizing how much I love seasons as everyone writes about cross country meets, football games, and cooler windy weather. I never thought I would be homesick for apple orchards and crunchy leaves but wow am I. I am a believer in a four seasons lifestyle. This brings me to another thing that is hard about this year that I have signed up for…
I miss college! I like to think that the transition from college to work would be hard whether I was in another country or not. I miss going to the library, I miss waking up to meet my friend for breakfast, I miss lectures and learning things I had never though of before. I miss living in a huge community. For all the times I was irritated with Rockford College I sure do miss it now! I’ve started looking at graduate schools but it seems like it may be hard to get that process going while I’m away. Plus how does one know whether its worth the application fees and such. Ugh.
I apologize to any Hondurans who read this, but another think I struggle with is that the culture is lazy! Everything I have observed, from the teachers at my school, to the people working at the grocery store proves that people do the least bit that their job requires of them. Maybe they have a better sense of what is important in life and have less stress than Americans about being the best at their job and getting a raise, but when you are used to American ways this change is hard to understand.
I am reminded over and over again that this is a year of service. A big reminder recently though was that a man who comes to the home a couple times a year showed up while we were there eating lunch. He was very friendly and asked if he could take us out to dinner. We are always up for some activity outside the home so we all said yes, but the truth was that I was tired from our vacation and needing to get back into the groove at home. I felt as if I had to go though because I am “representing” the home. Later that day he showed up to move in for a couple days into our house. I’m not giving this situation the credit it deserves; I guess I had moved on from it. But anyway in the end he wasn’t actually given permission to live with us and the administration apologized for not warning us ahead of time. It felt so weird to have someone come into my home and make themselves comfortable without me even knowing they were coming. But as a volunteer I felt as if I had to just go with the flow. From now on we will always tell whoever shows up at our door wanting to come in that we must first hear from the administration that they are to stay here.
I had expected to be immersed into Spanish again but am certainly not here. My housemates don’t speak Spanish so it’s only English in the home, and at school I teach in English, and then most of the teachers want to practice their English with me. I have quickly become the token practice your English girl. I’ve gotten better at letting this go but its still something I struggle with. My favorite times are when we, Emily and I, go out with our coworkers on Saturday nights and meet their friends. Many of whom don’t speak English, then I can get my Spanish practice in!
I thought I was coming here with no expectations ready to embrace whatever it would be. Clearly, I did have some expectations that were eating away at me. It feels good to get them off my chest and express them. Thanks for listening.
Disclaimer: Family and friends, the hardest part of this whole deal is of course missing you all so badly. Please don’t think that because I did not write about that being hard I do not struggle with it  I miss you all so much but I knew I would!

September 22 a

September 22, 2009 (a)
Wow what an exciting time to be in Honduras! Yesterday at 3:30 pm an administrator named Mayra called our house to tell us to not leave. The country has been under a curfew that was originally supposed to last until seven am but last night at about nine we got a call that there would be no school tomorrow either and that the curfew was extended till six this evening. It feels as exciting as a snow day, but its still ninety degrees and hot and muggy here… definitely no snow in sight. But I just love whe you have a day off you weren’t planning on, it makes it that much better! “Mel” or ex-president Zelaya who was ousted during the beginning of the summer snuck back into Tegucigalpa yesterday. He is currently in the Brazilian Embassy. I watched a lot of TV yesterday and saw people gathered in the city of Tegucigalpa. The people organizing in Tegucigalpa were sure passionate about the fact that they want Zelaya back. I also tried calling some of my Honduran friends once we heard the news but because so many people were using their phones at once it was totally blocked and we weren’t able to reach anyone with our cell phones.
As the warning announcement came over the television that there was a curfew to follow they showed pictures of the Honduran flag, people enjoying themselves in Honduran vacation spots, and even a little girl showing a project she did for school talking about how proud she was to be Honduran. This propaganda stuff made me feel like I was in a fiction story, but it all seems so familiar to me after my study of South and Central America and their governments. It’s actually quite exciting to be here in this important time for Honduran history. I am completely safe so please do not worry!
I will keep you updated on how things turn out. I think this could probably be a crazy couple of days. I don’t see it blowing over very quickly. Lets hope that Mel and Michiletti start opening up to the mediation process and meet an agreement peacefully!

Asher HR Morgan

September 20, 2009
I have forgotten to blog about a very special happening in my life. I am an aunt again of a sweet little boy named Asher HR Morgan (H for Hannah R for his great grandfather). I’m overwhelmed with how much I love this little baby that I have not even met yet. In order to celebrate I made myself a yummy spaghetti dinner and then made brownies! I felt very far away during the waiting process and still do now, but it has been wonderful to talk to Xan over skype and hear little details about my new little nephew.
Here are some of the photos that I have seen that make my heart melt. I love how Emmanuel already loves his little brother. I’m so thankful for a healthy safe delivery and I’m counting down the days till I get to give Asher HR Morgan a big Tia Ana kiss. I’m not new to being away during this process, I was in Argentina when Emmanuel was born, but I still do not feel like a pro. It just plain old sucks that no one has invented a transporter time freezer deal so I can make a trip home real quick. Someone get on that please!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Tela, Honduras, pictures!

I can't get the link to post on here so copy and paste this into your web browser to see the album!

September 17

September 17, 2009
It’s Thursday afternoon and I think I’m in a bit of denial that the end of the week has already arrived… I am feeling ready though to get back home and see my friends and students.
We (Brenda, Emily, and I) all took an air conditioned bus to Tela, Honduras, a coastal quaint little town. All kinds of people got on and off the bus at different cities on the way to sell us fruit, pizza, refrescos, or pirated DVDs. I saw some of the worst poverty I’ve seen since I arrived in Honduras. Teeny tiny little tin huts with a tin roof. I had a strong desire to just hop off the bus and learn about these people. I want to converse with them and hear about their history. You can see on the old women’s faces that they have weathered a lot. Rough shoeless feet and dark dried out faces from the sun create a smiling face that is very intriguing to me. What do they know about life that they can teach me?
Unfortunately, it is not a safe desire of mine so I will look on with interest and smile when we make eye contact. They smile back and probably make assumptions about me as I am about them. That will be all we have to go off of because of the gap of large differences that seem impossible for us to cross over.
Anyway, once we arrived in Tela we got a taxi quickly, before we even had time to worry about getting a taxi to take us to Gran Central, our hotel for the week. Our taxi took us to see a place where a school bus had gone over the ditch and had its hind end in the air. The school buses here are not used for children but are made into the city buses that take people around the city so it was not kids and the taxi driver assured me no one was hurt but it sure didn’t look like a good situation. Anyway, then he turned around and brought us back in the direction of our hotel.
All the reservations worked out at the hotel so we were able to quickly get into our room and get settled. The Gran Central is a beautiful little corner building in Tela. It is owned by a French couple so all the directions around the hotel are in Spanish, English, and French. It’s a great place to stay, feels very clean and when all three of us split up the cost its cheap too! We are only about four blocks from the ocean. On Tuesday we went out to eat at a typical coast restaurant with lots of yummy seafood available. I had shrimp in a garlic butter sauce, it was awesome. The ocean in the city is dirty, very dirty  It was still gorgeous because it’s the ocean but it smells like sewage and you had to dodge lots of garbage to get into the water. Emily and I took turns in the water because we could not leave our things on the beach alone. People were constantly trying to sell us things.
The Garifuna tribes here sell all things coconut. Coconut jewelry and coconut bread are the mainstays. Big curvy beautiful dark women carry Rubbermaid buckets on their head full of bread to sell. “pan de coco, pan de coco?” When you say no then they ask “queres unos trencitas? Trencitas?” And again I replied no. This is an occurrence that happens about every twenty – thirty minutes. I enjoyed an encounter I had while Emily was swimming (lucky girl)with a Garifuna man named Benjamin. He seemed to know a lot about his own culture and how they arrived here and such. He was teaching me some of his native Garifuna language and telling me about how I should send my prayers out to the sea because it will deliver it to God for me. I thought that was a beautiful idea, and I have always felt very spiritual around water. I’m thankful for his idea about this; it has given me a lot to think about while we stay in this coastal town. He also made some off color passes at me which I promptly replied that I would like to rest now and once I gave the hint he left me alone.
We went to dinner at a place called Maya Vista that is high up on a hill and has different levels in a huge beautiful tree. It felt like another giant tree house! We went at night when it was already dark but I think we are going to go today before it gets dark so we can really enjoy the view of the ocean. It was a delicious meal. We headed to bed on Tuesday night at about nine. I’m getting more and more used to going to bed early. It cracks me up every night but I’m still so thankful.
Wednesday morning I slept in till about 9:30 while Brenda and Emily went to get breakfast and read in the hotel room. I just love the fact that I can sleep for 12 ½ hours. It’s a gift! Anyway, Brenda asked about a place we could go to enjoy the beach that wasn’t as dirty or dangerous feeling. We ended up taking a taxi to a place called the Ensenada. The taxi first drove us to a Garifuna village called Ensenada and after being brave and telling him he was crazy for driving us all the way out there and using my Spanish he realized he couldn’t screw us over like that. He drove us to the right resort then and only charged us what he would from the beginning.
La Ensenada was a resort with a huge swimming pool, a pool bar, and on the ocean lounge chairs, hammocks and a security guard! We had a delicious lunch buffet there that was also included in the price to visit for the day. It was just what we needed. We didn’t have to feel pushed around by sales people and we could relax and really enjoy the beautiful ocean. The water was much cleaner and there was less trash. It seems that Hondurans are lazy when it comes to picking up their garbage but hardly even noticeable at this resort after Tuesdays experience. I had only imagined I would ever be at a place like this for my honeymoon. I have never experienced feeling like such a princess. I feel like part of an exclusive club of people now that I know what it is like to be a client of a high end resort… wonderful!
We wanted to try an Italian place called Mamma Mia in the little town of Tela for dinner but when we got there at about 7:15 pm they had already closed for the evening. We walked to another restaurant, the one we went to when we first arrived and the owner saw us and opened up her doors again for us. We had another great meal together with great conversation. Our walk home was a little more nerve-racking and made us feel less safe. We have decided that today we will be home and back in our hotel room before it gets very late.
Today we got up early and headed to a little tour building called Garifulna Tours. We had already signed up for a tour that was to leave at 7:45 am. On the way I stopped into a little bakery and had a roll filled with ham and cheese, it was piping hot and delicious! We hopped on a bus from there that took us to a little inlet where we got on a boat. It took us about thirty/forty minutes to arrive at the national park called Punto de Sal. (For you Spanish speakers it is not where they harvest salt but rather point of exit from Tela. Sal being short for salida). The splash of ocean salt water on your face while going about forty miles per hour in a boat in HONDURAS is a pretty amazing feeling! We hopped off the boat in a little inlet where we started our hike through beautiful jungle. We saw lots of little crab holes, which I were assured were crab holes and not casas de culebras (snakes). I did see a couple crabs that were about as big as one of my hands but I don’t think I was as scared of them as I would be of a huge snake. Anyway we also saw huge spiders with beautiful webs reflecting in the sunlight between the trees. We were eaten alive by mosquitos, it really didn’t matter that I had loaded myself up with half a bottle of bug spray before we got into the jungle. The mosquitos there make camping at Vanburen state park feel like a luxury trip. Anyway, I only got a couple bites; they were really biting some of the other women. The coolest thing we saw though on our hike was the Howler monkeys. Our guide would make the howling sounds, sort of like the song, “who let the dogs out… WHO WHO WHO…” and the monkeys would answer back… every time! It was so cool. I have some pictures and video that will be on my picassa site for you all to see!
After the hike the boat met us in a different area of the peninsula and we all hopped back on to head toward the beach where we were going to swim. We were all given snorkeling gear and we went snorkeling! Wow what an amazing experience! I saw some beautiful coral and plants that were dancing in unison with the ocean. It was gorgeous. I wanted to sink myself down to the bottom and dance with them though as I tried to move myself as they were I realized my body was unable to flow like they did. I moved slowly and quietly and started to see fish. It was so interesting; it seems as if people who scuba dive and found the best kept secret. It is a beautiful unknown world under the water. I once got caught up in a school of yellow and black striped fish and that freaked me out a little bit. After a little self pep talk though I was fine and continued on. Then, I was finding more crevices and dark places where the fish like to hide. I stayed in one spot to watch closely and out came a glowing neon blue black fish. As I thought about how it glowed like that I got a little more nervous but again calmed down quickly. What a beautiful way to rejoice in God’s creativity! The most important thing I learned about snorkeling though is to put sunscreen on the back of your legs. I floated for about an hour and hadn’t put sunscreen on the back of my legs. By the time I got back to the boat to my sunscreen it was too late 
After snorkeling we got back in the boat and headed to a Garifuna village where they made us lunch and we got to spend a couple hours on the beach. It was a rustic cabana community where I felt as if I had slipped into the posters people put in their college dorm rooms hammocks and all! For lunch we had rice and beans, fried plantains, and a whole fried fish! And when I say whole… I mean whole! I was really surprised and a little nervous at first but the meat of the fish was delicious! Everything tasted so wonderful and really added to the experience. At about two o’clock we took the boat back to Tela another forty minute ride and now I am sitting in the air conditioning of our hotel room thinking about what a wonderful trip this has been. It has been exactly what I needed to put teaching back into perspective and get a break from the stress of starting something new. I feel rejuvenated and eager to see the teachers and students and get back to work.
I’m very appreciative of Emily because she started sending emails to hotels to make a plan for us and to do the tour we did today. If it hadn’t been for her planning I would be sitting around the apartment wishing I had somewhere cool to go. Thanks Emily!
Well we are going to head to dinner now I believe. Thanks for reading about all my adventures this trip! It was very fun to relive them all!

September 11

September 11, 2009
Tomorrow I will reach my month anniversary of arriving in Honduras. Its quite strange actually, I feel like I just got here a couple days ago. Everything still seems so new and I feel like I’m still on the adrenaline rush of just arriving. I’m still working on meeting the neighbors and the poverty continues to surprise me. But on the other hand I feel very settled here. I feel comfortable in my room and house, get a long great with my housemates; I know I can get what I need and feel that I have already made great friends! My Spanish picked right back up and I’m enjoying perfecting it with all the teachers I work with in the teacher’s lounge.
I think it feels like such a time warp because I have been so busy. I have not had anytime to miss home or to do much exploring. I work hard everyday, but because I’m working hard the week goes by quickly and the weekend is long and restful. I guess that makes me thankful to be working so hard even though it took some getting used to. I think I took weekends for granted in college, they sure are wonderful things!
At school we have a boy, I’m not sure if I have written about him or not yet, but his name is Eduardo and he has some major disability but I don’t know what it is. All the teachers struggle with him because he acts out and has a very hard time making social connections. He is a first grader of mine so I have gotten to know him well the past few weeks. This week though something clicked between us. I have to tell you a couple stories that make me proud to be his teacher and grateful for his presence at the school. Earlier this week, during chapel, I stood next to Eduardo to help him keep his body still and in the seat. As we left chapel he hugged me so sweet. My friend and 5th grade teacher Dirian noticed and later in the day she said wow, Eduardo really loves you. I love that in the Hispanic culture that isn’t weird and is said without hesitation, “Eduardo te quiere Hannah!” It felt good to have someone else notice and tell me! Then yesterday I had to drop something off in the first grade classroom while they where in Spanish class. As I was walking down the hall leaving the classroom suddenly Eduardo was wrapped around my legs. I tried to convince him to get back into the classroom and finally I did and left again. And again he ran out of his classroom and grabbed me. I explained to him that right now he needed to be in his classroom and I would see him again later in the day. It feels good to be wanted even though he should have stayed in his classroom ;-)
Then today I had entrance duty which means I stand at the front gate and welcome the students. As Eduardo walked up to the gates he yelled Buenos dias miss Hannah and gave me a huge hug. Needless to say… it made my day!

Monday, September 7, 2009

September 7, 2009

September 7, 2009
It’s Monday night and I’m feeling pretty good. I am amazed at how quickly the time is passing here. I think because I am working so hard during the day the chill time I have in the afternoon and evening feels wonderful and like I can’t get enough. Better than when I was in Argentina and had a lot of hanging out time. We just had our weekly house meeting and I feel thankful for the chance to reconnect and remember why I am here. Its important to remind myself why I am doing this often because otherwise I can get caught up in the little things I cannot control. It helps me step back and look at the big picture.
I’m trying to learn the perfect balance between one on one time with my students and class direction time. So often the class gets rowdy or distracted when I have to step aside to communicate something specific with one student and unfortunately that is usually negative. I seem to have some students in second grade that just know that they are the class clowns and they don’t care otherwise. They are both pretty good at doing their work when they get to it but for the other students who are struggling with the material its distracting and makes my lesson choppy when I have to keep interrupting myself to redirect the “naughty” students. I’m working on trying to have a better positive relationship with these two boys so that I can build off of their trust in me to not distract the class. Today I asked one boy to help me carry the notebooks to the teachers’ lounge (This great idea was Xan’s! Thanks and I welcome any other advice!) And the other erased the board for me. But I get tired of constantly saying their name and feeling as if they don’t care one bit what I say. I don’t feel like I have lost control of the classroom but I hate that these boys think I only think negatively about them. I’m working on it!
I’m starting to make more of my own community of friends around here. I meeting people and looking forward to seeing people at school. I still dread walking into my first class of the day, but once I get on a roll I don’t even think about the fact that I’m a teacher until I’m walking home from school eagerly heading towards my bed for my afternoon nap. Speaking of my afternoon nap, and nights sleep actually, I think I might need you guys to send me some tranquilizers for pets. The dogs around here bark and howl all night long. Once I get to sleep almost nothing can wake me up (now that I’m not an RA anymore) but it does take more time to get to sleep when probably something like ten dogs are barking outside my window.
I keep healing from my sickness. I can tell when I’m tired my throat hurts more, but I have been taking Nyquil and it helps me get a good nights rest. I’m drinking lots of water too, be proud mama.  Tomorrow I stay after school to tutor the girls and have my late lunch over there. I’m excited to connect with them now that the stress of teaching has settled down some. It will be interesting to balance the relationship of teacher and friend with the girls I have in class but I’m sure we will work it out together.
I’m still not over the fact that I am ready to head to bed at nine. I hope that by the time I’m used to going to bed early I’m also used to waking up at 5:00 am. 

Sunday, September 6, 2009

September 6

September 6, 2009
I had a very fun night last night! I went to Chicago Unos (yes there are American chains all over this city) to watch Honduras beat Trinidad and Tobago 4-1. It was certainly a sight to see. The whole restaurant was glued to the hundreds of tvs in the building. Every the ball crossed the half towards our goal everyone started to scream, waiters would stop what they were doing, and everyone stared. Then most of the time Honduras scored a goal and everyone screamed GOLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL. And hugged and kissed and cheered and made noise with noise makers. It was very fun. Then we got into our friend Dirian’s car, another co-worker of ours, and drove around the city a bit. You think tailgating in the United States is fun you should vacation in Honduras for a soccer game! We cruised down the street with our funny hats on and for probably three miles on this main drag people were just hanging out. Everyone was so happy. I have never seen so many people come together spontaneously to have a “party” of sorts. There were babies, teenagers, grandmas, grandpas, and of course everything in between. What a fun thing to see in Honduras. Thankfully, I did not see any violence. Where I was it didn’t seem like it would ever get violent but I am sure that sometimes these things get carried away and can get dangerous.
During the day Saturday we had open house for the parents of the school. My job was pretty easy so it seems fairly insignificant but it still feels good to have it over. They introduced all the teachers to the parents as a big crowd and then they had to go to the specific classroom of their kid to meet with the teacher. During that time I just floated from first to third to give my little speech about how I discipline and what I was excited about working on with the kids. The biggest thing I pushed was that I want my kids to be able to not only read English but to understand what they are reading. They have had phonics which means they can read anything really, but their comprehension is not good. I also said I am going to try and encourage my students to use their imaginations and problem solving ideas on their own. (I didn’t say this to the parents obviously, but these kids have been trained to just process information like little machines.)
Before the open house my friend Erika stopped by to say hi and tell us she was going to the mall. We all got dressed quickly to join her and had a blast shopping. She is such a sweet heart. I’m so thankful for her. Today we are going to a dance competition with her that her brother is dancing in. I’m excited to see dancing, I hope its good ;-)
I am going to get in the shower so I’m ready to leave. I also have to do my house chores this morning. I miss you all and wish you could’ve been here to see the awesomeness that is Honduran soccer 

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

August 31

I can’t really believe August is over already. It is a strange feeling because it’s so hot and sunny here. It definitely does not feel like September. I can only imagine when it is December and it is still hot and sunny 
I am heading to bed but I wanted to tell you about the wonderful evening I had. After having a couple great conversations with friends and family on Skype I sat around in our living room with the housemates and we had a great conversation about all kind of important things in life. We are all so different that it is really interesting to hear all of our different points of view. I treasure their friendship and our differences and I know that my time here is much easier knowing I am not going through it alone.
I went running again today with Emily and one of the girls named Melissa ran with us. It was fun to run with her. I know I need to keep running, I feel so much better when I do, I just find it difficult right after school when I’m so tired I could cry to get motivated. But usually after it cools off a bit and I get some down time Emily can usually convince me to head over there.
I forgot to tell you all that a couple days ago I was walking back to the home for something I forgot and I was watching the ground, otherwise I might step in a steaming pile of dog poo, and I suddenly heard clomping right in front of me. A horse that was not tied up was walking straight for me from around the corner. At first I freaked out and jumped to the side out of its way. I doubt it would have hurt me, the horses around here seem really tame, but anyway after I freaked I laughed out loud, all alone, because it just tickled me that on my way to the home I almost ran into a HORSE… It still makes me laugh.
My third grade class went really well today. We are going to be reading Ramona Quimby soon and the unit is introduced with emotions. So I invented an emotion game and we had an absolute blast playing it. There are some nice moments of teaching I guess. The best is when the kids have fun learning rather than pulling teeth to get them to participate. I’m taking any suggestions anyone has about teaching first graders. I’m not feeling very creative about ways to reach them… I have sang to them, danced and done simple charades for them, and we even wrote our own story book with their pictures… but I’m exhausted in that class. Any help would be greatly appreciated!
I’m reading The Color Purple, I may have already mentioned that, and I love it. I told my housemates I was reading it and Brenda said that in one of her classes in Seminary they read the book to study the spirituality of it. I am definitely experiencing some beautiful moments in the way the characters think about God. More on this later maybe, now I’m heading to bed because it’s almost ten! I’m still trying to get over the fact that my bed time is ten!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

August 29

August 29
So it’s Saturday evening around six o’clock. I have been lazy all day, but I did get my laundry done and that is a process! We have a washing machine but it doesn’t fill with water so we have to fill it with jugs from the sink. It takes about 8 pitchers full to do the first cycle. Then once it stops again you have to fill it with 8 more pitchers and start the rinse cycle. And then, I know it’s lazy, but you have to hang up every piece so that it will dry! I can appreciate it for its simple beauty, but I’m definitely not used to it.
I have to tell you about the third grade teacher Erika, she has quickly become a very important friend to me. She has helped us with a lot since school started and she has a loving wonderful personality. She took us out last night, along with another teacher named Dirian to a great restaurant for steak and beer. The restaurant was like a big tree house. It was awesome. The food was great, the ambiance beautiful, and the company a blast! We laughed hard and finally had a chance to be together without the stress of school being the subject of our conversation.
Erika is on her way over now with her 8 month old baby so we can meet him. I’m very excited to meet him. I’m so thankful to have a friend I trust here and I feel as if she is thankful that she has three new friends also.
When I go to the home I feel I am chatting with the same girls every time. I want to meet more of the girls but I’m not sure how to approach them. It seems as if I have met all the girls that are excited about meeting the new volunteers, the others I will have to approach slowly one on one. This just takes time I guess.
So in the middle of writing this our friend Erika came over. She brought me food and it was amazing. She had mashed potatoes, rice, and shrimp in her own homemade breading. It was delicious… My explanation will never do it justice. Anyway, she has the sweetest little one. I was really happy to have some baby time.
I had a weird dream last night that made me really miss my family and friends when I woke up in the morning. I had my first, o crap I’m still in Honduras moment. I know that these are normal and to be expected so I just tried to get out of my funk anyway I can. Reading The Color Purple has been wonderful. I also spent time just relaxing with Brenda and Emily. I’m so thankful for their friendship. Seeing the girls helps too, but what really made me feel better today was chatting on skype. I know I have said this before but when I feel as if I can’t do this, or that I don’t want to, I just remember how many people love me and are supporting me in this adventure. I will persevere! It was really nice to have Erika come over tonight too! I’m glad to be making friends.
I will get up early tomorrow to go to church with the girls again. I wasn’t a huge fan of the church last time but I did really appreciate the time to connect with more of the girls. I have to finish folding my laundry too before bed.
Peace be with you.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

August 27

August 27
So I have almost one full week of teaching down. I think I am starting to get the hang of it. I feel less threatened by the kids or something. I go in there now knowing that I am the teacher and that they know that. All of us in the house go through our days where we feel like we wish we hadn’t done this, chosen to be a teacher for a year, but usually we all wake up out of our funk for the next day. This is sure a hard thing to do with no training. I’m doing my best but I know I could do much better if I had studied teaching in school. I guess if it wasn’t a requirement then I shouldn’t be too worried about it.
Yesterday we had a chapel service before school started. I had a very strange experience during the Eucharist. As the children lined up to receive communion there was a teacher asking “eres bautizado?” Are you baptized? When they answered no she literally turned them around to get out of line. I was so disgusted. I guess most of the faith communities I have been a part my whole life feel that everyone is welcomed to God’s table. It hit me like a ton of bricks. I for the first time in my life, that I can remember anyway, chose to not go up for communion. I struggled with the desire to have communion, something I have always loved, but to go up made me feel as if I thought I was better than all the little children who had not been baptized. So I stood there trying to get a hold of what was happening in front of me. I had a third grader ask if she could go up even though she wasn’t baptized, I told her we could go up together with our arms crossed and receive a blessing but she didn’t want to stand out like that. Ugh, it just broke my heart. I can look at it now and realize that its probably typical of the Honduran churches to be very traditional in this way but that still doesn’t make it right for me. I’m still trying to decide whether I want to take communion next week or choose to not receive unless all are welcome.
Today I only had three classes so I had the whole afternoon to prep for next weeks lessons. It was great to get those done and makes me feel eager about the weekend and not doing much by way of teaching. Tomorrow I have all six classes. I’ll be pooped tomorrow afternoon but at least I will have earned my weekend 
Yesterday and today Emily and I went over to the school/home campus to run. We went after a nap and then after we run we hang out with the girls and eat dinner at the home. Tonight we had baleadas. It’s a Honduran food, not really that special it seems, but definitely the crepe to France. It’s a tortilla with refried beans, special cheese, sour cream and sometimes meat or avocado in the middle if your are lucky. I think it tastes good but its not anything to um… write home about… but I guess I am. So maybe it is? Haha.
There are a couple of young girls at the home who like to come sit on my lap every once in awhile. I hug them super tight and picture Dash and Emmanuel in my arms. I’m so thankful to have little ones around in their absence but I really miss those sweet nephews of mine!
That’s all for now, I’m going to read The Color Purple for a bit and then head to bed. I’m a working woman now and I gotta get my sleep. I’m not used to looking forward to going to bed by nine.

Monday, August 24, 2009

August 24

These pictures are out of order but the first one is what the three of us felt like after teaching all day and the second one is of me the morning before I left :-) Had to take a picture of my first day as a teacher!

Well today was my first day of teaching. It was a long exhausting day but overall I feel pretty good about it. I survived and that’s all I’m hoping for. Its going to take me awhile to get used to the chaos of elementary school classrooms but I’m sure I’ll get the hang of it. My first day included accidently reprimanding a kid named Julio by the name of Josue. The funny thing is Josue is a really sweet kid in the class who does everything perfectly. He came up to me and said Miss Hannah (I wish I could record their sweet accent and way of saying my name) I Josue, he Julio. I felt so bad. I apologized and he seemed to not be too traumatized.
Here is another story that shows how in over my head I feel. All the students gather in the chapel in the morning to say our school prayer and sing sanctuary (really out of tune and so slow you forget the next word before it comes) (( and yes the sanctuary we all sang at church camp at one time or another you know it… ) Anyway at this gathering I walked into the middle of the chapel and sat with some of the kids I knew were in third grade. The director Diana started talking and I realized I was the only teacher not standing on the edge. I decided after a minute or two of debating that I should probably stand up and not do anything that could make students question my authority on the first day. So I waited for the appropriate moment and stood up. TADA, I’m a big kid now  I decided not to feel embarrassed about it because I like what it says about how I like to do things and that I wanted to be an equal with the students but I also think its good that I stood up in the end.
I had a great talk with my family tonight. I left my headset at home (probably the thing I need most to feel comfortable) to talk on skype but Emily my housemate let me borrow her amazingly wonderful mac in order to talk to my whole family. They had lots of good ideas and helped me laugh about my stressful day. I feel much happier about tomorrow than I thought I would. I am consistently amazed at how good I feel during this whole process. I wonder when the really hard culture shock will set in, I know it will and I will be ready 
Today after school I stopped at the pulperia (a little shop) for a 2 liter of coke and three eggs. I love that I can just go buy eggs there whenever. Hopefully I get up in time tomorrow morning to make myself an egg… it is kinda late already so maybe they will have to wait till Wednesday. Do eggs always have to be in the fridge? The eggs from the pulperia were definitely not in anything cold… I bet they are already hard boiled just from sitting out in the heat and humidity of Honduras 
My ants are keeping me company now. Does it say something about solitude when you are saying goodnight to your ants?
I started reading The Color Purple. I hate to admit that I haven’t read it before. I’m really enjoying it and I think reading here is going to give me a much needed break from school stuff. TV can also but it gets exhausting watching Spanish television, one because I have to think harder and two because they have wild crazy lots of color and craziness going on. There are several good books here that other volunteers have left so that’s good news. I’m also reading Don Quijote in Spanish again so that I can keep studying it.
My sister Xan reminded me tonight to not make any overarching claims about my ability to teach or how much I like it after just one day. I think she is right. It may grow on me, and you can never judge something on one day anyway right? Good thing I have 32 weeks and 4 days to go 
Tonight I leave you with a bit of mother tongue that is on a bag my aunt, uncle, and cousins gave me as a parting gift. I have been feeling how true this is in my supportive family and friends back home as well as the wonderful community I have already made with the teachers at the school and my housemates…

I am what I am because of who we are

Sunday, August 23, 2009

August 23

August 23
So tomorrow morning I start teaching! I have to be there at six thirty! Everyone who knows me will know that this will be a feat in itself. I’m not a morning person but I’m sure that at least for the first week the adrenaline of being a real teacher without any real training will get me up and excited before school start. I don’t know about the next ten months… haha but I’ll give it my all.
Tonight I was chatting with my roommates in the hall before we all went to our rooms for the night and we laughed hard because I was saying that I’m hoping while I sleep I have some major transformation and start to feel like a teacher. I then said, “I think once I have my costume on I’ll feel more… “ and then we laughed hard that I called it my costume. Clearly I feel like I am going to have to do some pretending. Everyone is saying that you must start out firm and then sweeten up as the kids learn to behave and follow my rules. I think this will be hard for me cause I’ll just want to joke around and laugh with the kids right away. Although, I do think it is good advice. It will be important that the kids know that just because I am not from Honduras doesn’t mean they can mess with me and that I don’t know what they are saying and such. I think because I have younger kids I will have to deal less with the students questioning authority but I still might have some of that.
I had a relaxing weekend and I actually feel ready for tomorrow. I don’t feel as stressed out and nervous as I thought I would. This is a huge relief. I have gotten over my sickness for the time being and I’m so thankful. I went to the grocery store and bought everything but rice on the BRAT diet; Bananas, Rice, Apples, and Toast. I have had my fill of rice but just eating toast and bananas I think really helped my system get back to normal. It makes thinking about tomorrow much easier when I know that I won’t have to rush to the teacher’s bathroom 
I went to church with the girls from the home today. It was an overall enjoyable experience although it seems as if the church is struggling a bit. Our Little Roses makes up pretty much the whole church. They go to the cathedral and the bishop seemed a bit out of touch. During his sermon he actually stopped to ask one of the girls to pick their head up and pay attention. I think it’s a shame that he embarrassed her in front of everyone. That wouldn’t make me want to come back. Anyway, on the way there a sweet little five year old named Vanesa sat on my lap on the bus. I was moved by her desire to really cuddle in close into my arms. I can only imagine what it must be like to live in an orphanage when you are five years old. Would anyone like to have 60 sisters? I love my sisters but 60 of them? I really treasure that 20 minutes of her in my arms. I hope she did too.
Ok off to bed. Gotta be up at 5:00 am! Yikes!

August 22

August 22, 2009
I was able to check my email again today. I had a couple emails from family and friends that made me so happy. I know that I can do this adventure because I have so much love and support from my communities in the United States. Thanks for supporting me so lovingly.
I was up all night last night from being sick. I’m not sure whether it’s the heat or the food and water but I was not feeling good today. I went to the store with my housemates though and got some pepto bismol. It has given me some relief which I am thankful for. We had a taxi driver named Danilo that drove us to the store and then gave us his cell phone number so we could call him when we needed to be picked up. It is so nice to know that we can call a taxi who is familiar with Our Little Roses and is eager to help us. I am probably going to work on getting a cell phone specifically for this reason. I think because of the possible dangers of where I live it would be better if I always had the ability to call for help.
This morning Brenda woke me up because the washing machine fix it man was here. He had some questions and they needed me to translate. Sometimes I get nervous and feel as if I don’t really know any Spanish, but when I get a chance to use it and can have a productive conversation I feel so happy. I just love Spanish!
We are heading to church tomorrow with the girls. I’m eager for the service and I really hope its in Spanish. I think it would be so fun to hear the liturgy in Spanish. I wonder if it will have the same, less or more of an effect in another language.
Tomorrow I will be busy busy busy practicing and getting ready for school. I have nested in my room a little more today so it feels picked up and ready to be a good work place for me after church. I have lots of little ant friends that I seem to not be able to get rid of. Yes mom, I have not left any food out ;-) I’m trying to just send them love and feel connected to them like Lily does with her bees. (I will send them love and ask them not to crawl on my toothbrush  )
That’s all for now,
Love to you all,