Saturday, May 1, 2010

Spring Update Letter

Dear Friends and Family,
I hope that you all had a wonderful Easter! I was able to spend my spring break getting to know my new niece Scout Jeannette Wooten! She is a beautiful little one with tons of dark hair. It was truly a blessing to be able to hold her and love on her during my week off.
I am now back in Honduras and ready to take on the last quarter of my time here. I have moments everyday where I find myself smiling from ear to ear, or laughing till I cry with the girls or my friends here, and I almost always end these moments with a little thought of how hard it will be to leave this country and this experience.
As always these experiences have their ups and downs. I went through some typical culture shock when I arrived, and actually again after six months. Following my experience in Argentina, as soon as I started to understand and be comfortable with Honduran culture it is near time for me to say goodbye. I do feel sad that my time is coming to a close but I also feel really good about what I have done here. I will do my best to enjoy every moment I have with my students, the girls in the home, and my dear Honduran friends.
I have a very special place in my heart for Honduras. It has a dirty history and a dark future. The people I know here though, are trying their best to make do. Given a pretty ugly hand, they pull through everyday just barely making it. I am grateful for the opportunities I have been given by solely being born as an American citizen. No matter where you land on the political spectrum you should feel grateful to be an American. This was a lesson I needed to learn, and have learned it well here in Honduras. If you find yourself doubting this I encourage you to think about a trip to a third world country and you will also see the light!
This past quarter of school, January to April, was very difficult. I think it was a mixture of many things. I had no break, no jaunt to the sea for a couple days, and it wore on me! Teaching is hard for me; I’ve overcome the everyday challenges, but nine weeks straight with no break and the only fun day at school was Valentine’s Day. I often compared it to the third lap in the mile race of four laps, its often the hardest lap, seems like everything in my life can relate back to running philosophy somehow.
I do have exciting news though! My plans for when I come home have really come together. In March I was accepted to The New School in New York City. I will be studying Non-Profit Management. I also got a job as a resident advisor so I will be living in the financial district of the city. I feel very blessed that this opportunity has become available to me. Thanks to the wonderful support I received from staff and faculty at Rockford I am now able to start making my dreams realities.
Being in New York City in the middle of all of the non-profit and international organizations will be a huge benefit to making connections in the non-profit world. I already feel a bit nervous about my ability to do graduate school. I’m telling myself everyone feels like this before graduate school; don’t tell me if it’s not true! ;-) I am going to push myself outside of my comfort zone there and really learn how to network.
Thank you for making this experience possible for me, and helping me to be a role model for these girls who are so wonderful. The following is a brief introduction of one of the girls from the home that I have had an extra special connection with and that I think will really make it someday.


Riccy is a ten year old smiley student in my second grade classroom. She is always one of the first girls from the home to welcome the visitors and is almost always in a happy mood. She loves to practice her English with the visitors and treats all the tias and teachers with respect. She is very affectionate and loves to dance!
Riccy tries very hard in school, though she struggles quite a bit. She is always asking me to help her study more over the weekends or after she finishes her homework. She seems to be very aware that she is lucky to be in the home and go to a bilingual school.
Riccy has two sisters who also live in the home with her. The three of them are always together. Please pray for Riccy as she finished second grade that she will continue to take her school work seriously and continue at Holy Family.

April 30th

April 30, 2010

It’s five o’clock on a Friday afternoon and I just woke up from a nap. A very hot sweaty nap because my air conditioning doesn’t work but nonetheless I caught some zzzzs. I have to apologize for not writing in quite a while. My life has become quite routine lately, seems like the weeks fly by, the weekends creep by and then suddenly another month has passed.
I know the girls better and better everyday. I feel as if it is really important that I continue to show them I love them without expecting anything in return. I am constantly reminded of this when I think of all the volunteers they have experienced relationships with in the past. I’m just another one of many, but I doubt I will ever have to chance to love 60 girls again. I hope to use these last six weeks to really drill into them how beautiful, how intelligent, and how funny they are. I am here for their future, to make their future a reality and not a dream. It seems insignificant now but I know it will be a huge difference as they move out of the home and start lives that are not on the street or stuck in a home with an abusive husband.

My time here is not wasted!

Today I was overwhelmed with a feeling of sadness. Yesterday, on of the cooks and housekeepers of the home was screaming and crying in the school. Later on in the afternoon one of the girls, a sixth grader, said “they killed her son”. Just like that Leily from the home told me the awful awful truth of her country. As a coping mechanism I prayed for her, put Chavela in my heart and continued to tutor the girls. Then today at school I was in the teacher’s lounge speaking with some of the other teachers. They were talking about how horrible it was. Apparently he was shot ten times. (I know that often Hondurans tend to exaggerate things, unfortunately though I don’t think this is far from the truth).
This topic seemed to get everyone talking as each one of the teachers started sharing their own stories with me. One coworkers friend was kid napped in the fall, one coworkers husband was kidnapped and then left on the side of the road outside of the city, and another coworkers house was broken into last week. Odilia the second grade teacher, lives just a block from my apartment. She said, “o no one told you? My house was broken into last week.” This was shocking to me, as I have felt like I live in a pretty safe area. I never thought someone might actually break into my house.
Anyway, as everyone started sharing their stories I checked out for a bit. I looked off into the distance only half listening to all their stories. I said to myself… Hannah, get your act together. You can handle this… but the truth is I can’t. My best friend and fifth grade teacher Dirian notice my “exit” and said stop telling these stories or you will make Hannah cry. Well that snapped me back into attention and then I just lost it. All these people that I love live in such a dangerous place. I asked them “How do you go on everyday knowing that it could be you?” Miss Odilia, who has two children a preschool aged son and a fourth grade daughter said, “I leave everyday knowing I might not make it back.”

O it’s just terrible. I told them that usually if someone dies from a crime I always assume in the states that they were part of something not safe, like maybe a gang, an unhealthy relationship, a drug war… But here people will kill for a cell phone. That’s what they have always said, and I now know it to be true.
I’m surprised that I don’t feel a crippling fear from the conversations I had today but more sadness. I feel so sad that all these people I love live in danger everyday. I suppose maybe they don’t know any better, but after seeing so many people walk down the street in NYC with their Iphone glued to their ear and not run into any problems make me feel so sad that this is how they live.
My friend Dirian consoled me as I got myself back together. We were headed to a all staff meeting with administration and I had to get in there. But I just hugged her and said, “Dirian, come home with me where you wont be in any danger, I love you too much to leave you here in this dangerous city.” Later I worried that she might have taken offense to that. I really hope I didn’t offend any of them, I care about them so much I want them to be safe, and I wish it wasn’t like this here. I hope they know that I’m just sad about the danger not judging their culture or their country.

The only answer I can find in this shock and fear and sadness and confusion is to pray. I pray for the people I have come to love here in Honduras, but I also pray for the young boys in this country who do not have parents and feel loved by gang members. I pray that children in this country will live different lives and be cared for and not need to rob or kill people for love and/or money. I pray that God is present to everyone in Honduras in some way. I pray that they will come to understand the beauty of life.

Tonight I pray especially for Chavela, her daughter, and all the girls at the home. I know they will be mourning the death of Chavela’s son and I am well aware that I will never be able to relate to what it is like to be from this country. Dear Lord, thank you for protecting the girls of the home, and please be present this night in the lives of all.