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!