Sarah's Adventures in Honduras

Friday, June 22, 2007

I rewarded myself for ending up in the right part of town by treating myself to a Moccachino Supreme—the closest thing Honduras can manage to an Iced Caramel Mocha Frappucino ;) I think that my expectations have been forever skewed by the generous employee who served me my first, with surprising whole cookie chunks in the bottom of the cup. Haven’t run into those dang cookie chunks since.

I headed to the bank and hoped my odds for getting money were good (you never really know). The security guard made me squish my duffel between storage containers and the glass bank window (no large security containers available—I guess most people don’t take their travel luggage to the bank…) After the common (minor) frisking before entering, I headed into the revolving door. At this point the revolving door stopped revolving and a voice came over the loud speaker. Uh oh. Everyone is looking at me pushing at the revolving door. This must have to do with me and my moccaccino. I glance and the bank security guard and he is signaling me to back-track. Dang. No Mocaccinos allowed.

It struck me as not a good sign that my bus station was in the middle of a road flanked by funeral parlors…

Contrary to the assurance I received that half an hour before was a terrific time to arrive at the bus station. I arrived to find the line out the door. An hour and a half later I buy a ticket for a bus leaving 2 hours later than my original plan. No problem. I’m in no hurry. I’m on vacation.

There is a little boy riding a bike with training wheels in circles through the line. One training wheel is slightly higher than the other so he balances slightly perilously. He has crashed into and ran over several understanding people.

On the bus

I’m sitting next to an angel. Grey ringlets escaping from her tight bun, deep creases in her face showing the years of laughter and tears. She offers me one of her packs of tajadas, which I politely decline. She burps grape soda and hocks loogies out of the window. I think she is beautiful.
I think about her four daughters. Again, childbirth blows me away. I try to imagine the powerful effect it must have on a person to share their body—house a growing, living being for nine months. Incredible.

I splurged on a taxi—the $2.50 was well worth it—me not having to make out heads from tails in this crazy un-navegable-to-an-outsider city built into the hills.

The weather has put me into a terrific mood.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

maiden voyage

There is something about getting in a car and driving for the first time, all by yourself, with your freshly non-restricted (silly MI) license.

Similarly, there is something about packing your bag and going on your first cross-foreign country trip (the kind of trip you don´t tell your mother about until you´ve safely reached your destination. Sorry mom ;))

So I find myself in Tegucigalpa, my first home in Honduras. I keep kicking myself for being at the internet and not having my little notebook of all of the funny adventures along the way. But I wanted to write you a little something anyway.

I will ask for disculpe in advance from all those San Pedro lovers, but I just have to say that Tegucigalpa is the FAR superior Honduran city. It would win, hands down, even if the only comparison made was the weather. It is beautiful. It is reminiscent of a perfect May day to hit West Michigan--the kind of day that can´t help but lift your spirits and make you walk a little lighter. It is the first time in a long time that I have stood in the sun and not wanted to run for shelter or scream. Instead, I produced an involuntary sigh of contentment.

I´ve finally been able to relax. Lots of telenovelas, porch sitting, and trying my very best to communicate in Spanish.

A week from tomorrow I will be in Chicago. That is such a strange strange thought.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Marilyn made me light the gas stove tonight. Our NEW gas stove. The one that made us dance for joy in the candlelight when we lost power during massive house dinner preparation. Yes, that would be the one. The one that I was terrified to light. Correction: I AM terrified to light. But Marilyn was there to help me conquer my fear. Ahem—force me to face my fear. I singed all all the hair off of my ring finger. And the fear remains.

There have been hard moments of saying goodbye. Saying goodbye to Elvis was one of those moments. We held hands all day. More for me than for him.

I won’t miss washing my clothes.
The other day I realized that I didn’t really have any clothes left that I hadn’t sweat profusely in. So I spent over an hour at the pila takin’ care of business. Later that night I gathered all of the dry clothes from the line, brought them in, and folded them up to put away when I noticed that over half of them were covered in bird poop. Back in the laundry bag they went.

I won’t miss itching anywhere on my dirty, sweaty body and breaking out into a rash.

But there are a lot of things I will miss about my home here in Honduras. I will miss all of the people playing and talking outside. The soft breeze that blows through the back porch in the late afternoon. The mountains behind the palm trees filling my whole view as I do the to school loop run.

10 more days.

Another slightly terrifying thought.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

School is officially over.

It is hard to believe. In many ways it feels like I had just gotten started. But I can smile and think of reasons why it was also a very long year. It wasn’t as sad or hard on our last day altogether—mainly because I am having small groups of them come in next week to hang out with me and play with me as we do all the games and activities that are hard in a big group. There will be a small group each morning until 11:15 when I’ll spend time cleaning my room and working on paperwork. So much paperwork. Also helping alleviate the hard, sad part of the end of the year is that I’m ready to hand them over to another capable teacher with fresh energy and enthusiasm. I can leave knowing that I put all my energy into doing the best at my job, confident that someone else will continue it.

Maybe you remember how gullible I am. Yesterday was another one of those times that I was completely in the dark. Apparently Jasmine and Thiago had been telling fibs all week, leading us to believe that we were to have an end of the year teacher’s meeting. At our weekly Thursday staff meeting this week, Thiago announced that it would be at 5pm on Friday—our last day of school. You can imagine how that went over—not too popular of an idea at all. Miss Kenya even wrote on the whiteboard at school that we should ser puntuales (be punctual). And they said they would even have it at our house for convenience. I thought that was a nice gesture on their part, saving us an evening walk to school (on the LAST day of school!) So around 4:50 I went out to clean off the back table and organize the porch. Marilyn swept and I set up chairs. At 5:10 still no one had arrived. I was sitting in one of the chairs I set up, feeling a little ticked that we were asked to be punctual when no one else was going to be punctual...
Around 5:15 Thiago showed up to tell us that the meeting was moved to the other house. You’ve got to be kidding, we thought, but maybe this means that there will be a cake...

There was more than a cake. We arrived at our own personal party—first happy hour and appetizers, music, and posters filled with pictures from throughout the year exclaiming “You Did It!” and “Felicitaciones!” Jasmine dressed up in black and white to serve us. Later we were instructed to return back to our own house and were surprised by a huge dinner feast. They had gone to the special grocery store in San Pedro to score boneless, skinless chicken breasts (imagine that!) and made both chicken and eggplant parmigiana, and all kinds of other deliciousness. We weren’t allowed to help, wash, move anything. Stuffed, we played a rousing game of Fishbowl (also called “The Game” or Celebrity), one round being Charades—in Spanish—which made it a lot harder. Except for the Charades round ;)

It was a good night.

Monday, June 04, 2007


today it was around 100 degrees in my classroom--in the shade--with both fans blasting. That doesn't even include humidity! Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

in the dark...

I had just been thinking that it had been a while since the power shut off. In fact, I had a slight moment of alarm on Saturday morning that perhaps it was going to be of those no power—do no work—sweat through it—kind of days. We tried to figure out a pattern (maybe we could just read the paper…) to the madness and the our smarts led us to believe that this all day black-out happens on Saturdays usually toward the end of the month. So when the power flickered, my panicked ignited. Whew, I happily expended energy all day long. But when the power went out last night, it didn’t strike me that it would be a long-term kind of thing. So I went on eating my hummus and cucumber in the dark, not even letting my mind wander to the mysterious location of the matches. It toyed with us popping on and off twice (later revealed to be a bad bad sign), before we gave up, and with fear felt around the cluttered “veggie table” hoping for a box of candles. The night continued by candlelight in the house where we tried to be productive all the while having that camping mentality that since it was dark that naturally meant bedtime, even though it was only 7:30pm. But sleep was near impossible without the calming noise and heat banishing fan action. I lay in bed literally shaking with laughter at the conversations taking place on the back porch—in the dark. Because they were so classic and true of my time here in Honduras. Of course it was Hilary, the brilliant, innovative, idea tosser-outer (creator of best-job/worst-job) who I heard say, “Ok everyone, what would be your three events in your own personal triathlon :)” Events thrown out there included Nutella eating, napping, and crossword puzzles. What would YOUR top three events be? So I lay in bed laughing at the ridiculous triathlon events, as well as the stupid college stories—you know, like sawing into secret rooms on campus. What?!

Long after the back porch conversations ended and everyone dispersed to their beds, I still lay, my mind running, thinking about how hot I was. So I packed up the sheet, grabbed the bug spray and headed out to the hammock. It was a weird night. I slept outside until 1:45ish and then decided that there MUST be power by now, so I might as well go in and sleep in the comfort of the fan, without the paranoia of bugs, bats, and ladrones—not to mention a crick in the neck. I arrived inside to find no such luck. But I decided to stay inside anyway. Not even an hour later the phone started ringing. I thought maybe it would just ring a few times and then go away, but it just kept ringing and ringing. So I jumped out of bed, and thinking I had a straight shot at it, I dashed for the phone. I had forgotten our back to back Grey’s Anatomy viewing earlier in the afternoon that we had set up seats for movie theatre style. I managed to crash over two chairs and knock a wine bottle candle holder off of a table onto the floor before I was able to grab the phone. 1. I am super glad that the bottle didn’t break because the thought of cleaning up broken glass in the dark at 3am sounds absolutely terrible. 2. I forgot that I don’t understand Spanish in the middle of the night so the conversation just consisted of…hello, uhhhh, what? The only word I remember hearing was coyote, at which I decided that the phone call wasn’t for me. I stumbled back to bed for another 2 and a half hours before waking to find that the power still wasn’t on, I lost my contact trying to put it in my eye in the dark, and left for school without bothering to make sure I didn’t have toothpaste on my face. What crazy times.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

recent pics to come. I promise.

I fly home one month from tomorrow. Can you believe it?

We hung out with the Paris Hiltons of Honduras last night.

I’m serious. It was…strange and unreal.

After taking Thiago, next year’s administrator and current house guest, to see Pirates of the Caribbean 3—or rather Piratas del Caribe 3 (we saw it in Spanish. I actually couldn’t remember anything about the first or second Pirates movies except how good Orlando Bloom looked so it was a confusing three hours…pirates don’t always speak clearly…), we met up with Bridget, Hilary, and Laurence who were hanging out with some girls Bridget knows living and working in San Pedro. When we got there, they were on the way to hang out with some Honduran friends they met through these girls several weeks ago. ANYWAY, I was tired and ready to get a cab to go home. Emily, Marilyn, and Thiago—also tired—were on my same page. But Hilary strongly encouraged us to come, at least just for the “experience.” Live a little. So when the BMW, giant SUV, trailed by their bodyguard showed up, we got into the car. It was the first (and probably only) Honduran mansion that I’ll ever visit. A beautifully landscaped backyard complete with in-ground swimming pool (that they never use). The ushered us quickly into the backyard, wanting to close up quickly for security purposes.

I wondered what it is like to grow up behind and surrounded by so much security. To never be able to drive around in your car by yourself. I actually felt less safe in the fancy car than I usually do, just knowing that there was a bodyguard in the car behind us…

There was a complete bar by the pool with numerous bottles of alcohol to be consumed. Vodka, rum, and wine of multiple flavors. A tiny, probably new, ipod was connected to a large speaker that played popular music from behind the bar. I stood there, watching the fancy people chain smoke under the awning of the backyard patio, thinking that I’ve never even hung out with people with this amount of wealth in the United States. They all spoke English perfectly and have either completed or are working on degrees in the United States. Ernesto is heading to Duke in the fall to get his Masters in Civil Engineering.

They pulled out Estilo magazine—the equivilent of People or US Weekly of Honduras—showing the “important people” out at the most trendy—must attend see and be seen kind of events in the country. They pointed out their classmates, and family friends--including the owner of Pepsi in Honduras, the founder of Megatel, a cell phone company, and the wealthiest man in Honduras. The people that hold the power and make the decisions. And here I was hanging out with their sons—the next generation of elite.

And I had no idea what to say to them.

So I brought up corruption. :) When I told Thiago this, he laughed and said, “Ohhhh, you’re the hippie protester they sent security in here for.” :) Nah, it didn’t go like that at all. But it was an interesting conversation. I just knew that I wasn’t there to chain smoke or get sloshed, so I might as well take this opportunity to at least try to have a meaningful conversation.

I’m glad I went. It was an experience—that’s for sure. But I never could shake the unnatural feeling I had being there.

It was a marathon to remember.

It learned about myself in both training and running in it.

I persevered at ran 4 laps on Wednesday without walking a step. Jasmine wouldn’t let me—she ran by my side encouraging me to keep breathing and keep my legs moving. It was the farthest I had ever run in my life. Friday night I slept like a baby—but woke bright an early excited about the big event.

We all walked down to the boulevard, pinned our numbers onto our backs, and waited for our race. As each minute passed it got obviously hotter. And when the race didn’t start until almost 10am, the sun was already high and hot. When our race was called, we laughed to see that us teachers were almost the only ones running in our adult category.

I would say that the first lap was up there with my worst nightmare. I started out too fast so I was quickly overwhelmed by the heat and feeling tired. As I ran around the track people shouted mean comments, taunted me, and told me I couldn’t do it. Which is bad, but even worse, I think, when you are doing something that is very hard for you, something you aren’t really good at, and therefore something you don’t particularly enjoy. It was like the men on the street with their hissing and taunting, their hard, uncomfortable stares. Only times 100.

I didn’t want to do it anymore.

Which started up the debate in my head. Because I didn’t want to be a quitter. I’m not a quitter—I thought to myself. I’ve been training for this! There are lots of hard things in life that you have to press on through—what does this say about you, Sarah, if you give up now?

But my anger at the bullies didn’t make me want to run faster or longer. I wished and wish that it would have. When it came down to it, the marathon was no longer fun, and that it why I wanted to do it in the first place. Not to prove to a bunch of other people that I don’t know that I could do it, but to prove it to myself. As I finished the first lap alone, I didn’t have it in me to face the people again. Tears mixed with sweat and stung my eyes—so angry that I let them get to me, that I couldn’t block it out, that I couldn’t make it my own race. But if it were going to be my own race, I wouldn’t have decided to do it in the first place.

I had an unbelievably better time cheering for my colleagues, buying them water and handing it out at the top of the hardest hill to talk yourself into climbing. But shortly after I started handing out waters, Jasmine jogged by. She looked tired and asked if I would run a lap with her. I ended up doing the last two laps with her, and we finished the race hand in hand. Having had time to rest, I was able to help her keep her pace, and use all of her own encouraging phrases to help her finish the race. She said she doesn’t think she could have finished without me, and I know I wouldn’t have finished without her.

So the marathon didn’t go exactly how I thought it would. But things you look forward to rarely do.

I checked after the race. 93 feels like 101 degrees. Not everyone can say they attempted a marathon in that heat!

p.s. Today is cloudy (of COURSE), and right now at 11am it is still only 91 feels like 94. The injusticia!

So I’m training for a marathon.

Slightly absurd, yeah, I know. I’m not a runner. But I am signed up for Cofradía’s very own little 5K marathon taking place this Saturday. I’m kicking myself for not training sooner—like in flat Michigan, in a not-as-tropical climate. It takes place on our one nicely paved road—the boulevard leading into town. 5 laps for women, 7 for men. So far I’ve run 3…I wanted to run 4 today, but I didn’t want it bad enough. It was hard to want it bad enough when I went to run by myself, and having to go to the bathroom with urgency. I think I spent the whole first two laps scoping out the side of the road to see if there was anywhere to relieve myself. No go. I’ll let you know how Saturday goes…cheer for me around noon eastern time!

We’ve kind of stopped cooking as we all began training for the marathon. Not that we don’t want to eat—we do—we’re just subsisting on the massive amounts of leftover tortillas given to us after various community social events (there’s a lot to do with a leftover tortilla—blank slate my friends). I think it also has something to do with the death of our third burner which coincided with the start of our “training.”

As this week finishes up, I will start my final week of normal classes at school before exams. It is a strange feeling. The feeling of the end hasn’t hit me yet.

I am having job leads. This is good—good for my self esteem.

On Monday Orlando came up to me (while I was teaching) and wrapped his chubby, sweaty arms around me. I looked down at him, found him looking up at me, and had such joy to hear him exclaim, with much enthusiasm, “I love vocabulary words Miss!!!!”

We’re doing multiplication these days. Blows me away. These are the kids that, once I introduced borrowing and carrying, completely blanked on how to add and subtract. Watching them learn is so beautiful.