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!