Sarah's Adventures in Honduras

Monday, November 27, 2006

We are back after 5 days away from the Cof.

It is strange because most of my time away didn’t even feel like it was spent in Honduras. We stayed with Doreen’s family in Nueva Suyapa (after a ridiculous Dutch bingo connection that I won’t even get into right now). You must know that Nueva Suyapa is considered a slum. Calvin Profs Kurt and JoAnn Verbeek (who lead Calvin’s Development Semester) live there, so I had previously visited, and was wondering what my housemate’s reaction would be. Doreen’s aunt and uncles’ house was under construction. We actually had to walk on piles of rubble and rusty sheet metal to get to our room. None of the rooms had doors (not even the bathroom), but flowing cotton sheets or curtains providing a small sense of privacy. Five of us shared two double beds, which we pushed together and made us feel like Charlie in the Chocolate Factory. Shrieking ensued when a big cockroach was found on our giant bed. To turn the light on in our room we had to plug a plug into an outlet in the hallway. The vote was then that our accommodations reminded everyone of what they picture Afghanistan to be like. So this is where we stayed…drumroll…while we were attending a conference for bilingual school teachers downtown at the Marriot Hotel. Super giant (no strong enough words) choque. Luxurious, extravagant, excessive. I couldn't have felt more out of place. I felt like everyone could look at us and tell that we were the RURAL bilingual school teachers. I was so glad I didn't wear the chacos! So many people in fancy clothes, suits, highlighted, blow-dried, curled hair, make-up, bling bling, heels. None of us even showered before putting on our wrinkly clothes. There was ice water in a pitcher in every room. There were appetizers, fresh watermelon and pineapple juice between sessions! And at the end of the day we went back to Nueva Suyapa. A few of my housemates went to the bar one night and their ride back refused to drive them back to Nueva Suyapa saying that he wouldn't go there at that time of night without tinted windows and a big gun. A lot to think about.

There could be a whole other blog about first time back in Tegucigalpa since I studied there back in the day--stay tuned...but it was terrific and too short. I met up with some Calvin friends doing the same thing I did only three years before them.

It was hard to leave the Calvin folk. I wanted to cling to them since they are heading back so soon to something so safe and familiar. In fact, I know from experience, that no matter how much their time in Honduras has impacted or changed them, life will return very much to what it was like before. Things will more or less go back to “normal.” There will be new close relationships, affirmed or ignited interests or passions, but they will slip back into the rhythms of college life with perhaps only a toe momentarily dragging in the mud. I was jealous of them for having a rhythm of life to return to. I realized that for me there isn’t a normal to go back to. That this, what my life looks like right now, is normal. And that is a very strange thought.

It hit me on the bus—the Zamorano school bus—riding to Tegucigalpa with the school children to meet up with our busito to take us the rest of the 4ish hours back to our house, how much the other teachers and my administrator have become my family. We’ve passed through the initial stages and have reached a point where we have seen each other through all emotions. We’ve seen each other in the great joy that comes from receiving mail or a phone call from a loved one, to the other side of the spectrum—the frustration and sadness that comes from feeling like we have failed. We’ve passed through the phase where we begin to see each other’s quirks that can quickly become annoying. We’ve acknowledged the ways we peeve each other and work on them.

“Marilyn, can you please not leave half avocados in the refrigerator.”

“Yeah, no problem.”

5 minutes later…

“Hey guys, if I only eat half an avocado…what do I do with the other half…?”

“Yeah, that is what I was wondering too…”

“It’s not that you eat half that is the problem, it is that there are already 4 avocado halves in the refigerator!”


The thought that hit me so hard in the bus was that we are all broken people. A giant dysfunctional family. We all bring our own weaknesses and quirks along with our strengths. We might drive each other up the wall sometimes, but we are all in this together. We are united in our vision for our school and for our kids, we are doing our best, and we are doing it together. It was and is a nice feeling to be hit with.

Tonight we (meaning the housemates and myself) finally broke into the chocolate chips that Marilyn’s mother brought us (mom, I definitely already chowed down the ones you sent me). Why the heck does this country not sell this food product?!? I want to tell them that if they did, people—like us—would buy them. We made some yummy chocolate chip cookies. Anna and I only made half a batch—which turned out to be 3 cookies per person. Hilary voted a whole batch, but we tried to tell her that we were trying to prevent gorging since it is certain that we would eat all of the cookies we made. But the after making stir fry tonight and having a candlelight housemate dinner on the back porch, we are itching for more cookies. I keep hearing the opening and closing of the refrigerator, a sure sign of housemates eating the leftover chocolate chips (I thought I was the only one to sneak another handful!) After dinner, Hilary (organized game woman) proposed that we should play something. We agreed to a game called Essences—a game where a person is chosen to leave while the rest decide on a person. The first person comes back to ask questions which the rest of the people answer based on the essence of the chosen person. Sounds more complicated than it really is. When I left and had to come back to guess which person’s essence they were trying to portray, it turned out that they had chosen me and were describing my essence to me! It was so interesting to think back on their answers to questions such as: If this person were a type of transportation what would they be? If this person were a color, a beverage, a music genre, an animal, etc! How interesting to know what my essence says to my housemates :) Here is what they decided—I think they did a pretty good job, but I’ll let you decide for yourself :)

If I were a hairstyle I would be a braid—a long, thick braid. If I were a color I would be a soft royal blue. As a music genre I would be folk, as an article of clothing I would be sweatpants. If I were an animal I would be a bear or lion cub—or perhaps a one-year-old lion since it would be less defenseless—though it was argued that a lion cub is not all that defenseless. If I were a type of transportation I would be an affordable, efficient car—like a Toyota. If I were an occupation (other than teacher) I would be a nurse or pediatrician. If I were a beverage I would be a root beer float or a licuado with ice cream, which we then decided is a milkshake. If I were a body piercing, I would not be a piercing, but rather a hidden tattoo. Intriguing.

ok, I'll peace out on that lighter note.

I'm listening to Christmas jams... :D

much love.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

recent events in pictures....

my kiddos :)
Crazies that they are....

working´s an act... :)

Juan Carlos´ mother had her baby! A beautiful girl named Katherine. I met her when she was 8 days old. Here are some pictures of her with her proud brother and sister.

Trip to Tegus! This is where I studied three years ago!

Beautiful Zamorano where we took a few days to observe teachers and explore a prestigious agricultural university.

I met up with my host family in Tegucigalpa :)

And some SE love! (They were taller than I remembered...)

I observed and got ideas from another second grade at Zamorano. This is my new friend Marvin.

I ended up subbing on Tueday while the 2nd grade teacher took my administrator hiking!!!

It was freezing there! Or perhaps in the 70s...

Leaving Tegus, we had a beautiful sunset. On the road for 6ish hours and back to school the next day! I had missed my own 2nd grade!

More to come!!!

Saturday, November 11, 2006

read it in chunks :)

I had yogurt today for the first time since coming to Honduras—wonderful strawberry yogurt that I bought myself for a treat yesterday and actually saved for breakfast this morning. It was like an explosion in my mouth! Such a foreign taste. So I had to start somewhere and it starts with yogurt :) I can’t believe it has been this long since I’ve written on the blog. Ok, here goes nothing. I wouldn’t say that I lead a crazy hectic life, but it has definitely been full since the last time I wrote. I can’t believe that you don’t know anything about the birthday extravaganza! Ahh! So last time I left off telling you that we were heading into San P for a little outing to celebrate Anna’s birthday. Ooh was it an extravaganza! The extravaganza started as we walked to the bus stop where we would catch either a “chicken bus” (school bus) or the smaller, faster, air-conditioned “Rapidito.” We hadn’t been at the stop more than a few minutes when an unmarked busito (read: small bus or 15 passenger van) pulled up. As it turns out, it was the uncle of one of the students that goes to our school. He offered us a ride into the city which we accepted, grateful to not have to wait for a bus that would take much longer than a direct ride. Crazy that he stopped to pick us up and crazy=the way he drove. It probably cut the trip time in half since he did everything save drive on the shoulder. I was feeling quite ill by the time we reached the city. Partly because I was frantically writing postcards to send out since I would be going to the post office for the first time. The anticipation and excitement was high. I was told that there was a package waiting for me at the post office that my administrator Jon wasn’t able to pick up without me there. I was literally trembling with excitement with the prospect of receiving a piece of mail. I stuffed a large plastic bag into my purse so that no matter the size of the package I wouldn’t have to lug a box around the city. We were dropped off on the side of the road once reaching the city and given directions to take the ruta 5. We were just breaking out the Moon Guide (travel book) to orient ourselves when we hear a little beep. A busito with a ruta 5 sign! So we get in, not knowing exactly where this vehicle would take us, but after saying what I thought was the word for post office, they looked about 50% confident that it would take us where we wanted to go. I was a little doubtful. But…I thought that it would probably at least take us closer to where we wanted to go :) We quickly got disoriented—this little bus took so many turns so fast! I thought that things would start to look more familiar as we headed more and more into the city, that we would maybe see some street signs, but nope. Negative on the street signs. After around 20 minutes we tried to get the attention of the guy who told us to get in. It ended up being three outspoken women who told us exactly when to get out of the bus and which direction to walk to the post office. Amazingly, it was only about two blocks! There were so many windows at the post office that one doesn’t even know where to start! I picked the first line—there was a picture of an eagle and packages in the background so I thought maybe that was a safe bet—and waited for my turn to talk to the woman running the counter. No, not the right counter, and it was doubtful that anyone would help me because we had arrived too late. It was 3:55 and the post office would be closing in 5 minutes. We sprinted (quite literally) to the correct package counter who told us that there weren’t any packages for our pueblo. I tried my best to remain calm and leave the quavering out of my voice to tell them that my amigo was just at this very spot the day before and had seen it with his eyes. I said it a few times with varying levels of urgency in my voice before she agreed to go get the man who also works there to ask if he knew if there were any packages for Cofradía. He found it quickly and I let out a relieved sigh. From mom. :) Birthday extravaganza!!!! But the missing package from Grace? Where could that have evaporated from? They said that there was another spot for letters, but that we would have to come another day before 4—and a weekday. Um, hello. We teach until 2:10—the children don’t leave until 3, it takes 25 minutes to walk home, and anywhere from 45 minutes to 1.5 hours to get to the city. I would have been more discouraged if I didn’t have a package in my hand. While I went to wait at yet another window, Lisa went to ask if it would be possible to give our IDs to someone to pick up our mail if we couldn’t make it before 4. I don’t know what she said, or whether to just attribute it to the birthday extravaganza, but they decided to let us all into the back room where they sort the mail. They pulled out a stack of mail for Cofradia and we could not help but grin, giggle, and cheer as each letter contained the name of one of our housemates. They pulled out one for Anna first and we think it was the sheer excitement (she jumped up and down) and fact that it was her birthday that they let us take all of the mail for all of our housemates even without their identification. I filled my bag with letters and packages of all shapes and sizes. I received all mail sent to me since the day after I left for Honduras! Four letters! Two packages besides the one from my mom! The one from Grace! “Birthday Extraaavaganza!” we chanted once again. We didn’t even care that it was 4:23 and the movie that we wanted to see at the mall was going to start at 4:35 and there was little chance that we would make it. The messages from home was worth it. I could barely keep from crying from joy. We left the post office dancing and decided to splurge on a cab—the best bet to making it to the movie. We had just started negotiating the price to drive the five of us when we hear two beeps…Chevo! The husband of the woman who runs our cafeteria! Birthday Extravaganza! He asks us where we are going and quickly lets us climb into the back of his pick-up truck to take us to the mall. We arrive at 4:34 and file into the movie just as the opening credits are starting. I pull out my Starbursts from Grace :) We get Baskin Robbins ice cream before heading to the bus stop to head home after the movie. I know that Hilary, Marilyn, and Emily are cooking the secret birthday dinner at home. Whole wheat vegetable lasagna, homemade bread, chocolate cake, and wine bought special from the city. We wait as the bus stop for about 5 minutes when a bus goes by for Cofradia. It is so full that it doesn’t even stop for us. It was the first wind of bad luck on the birthday extravaganza celebration. We wait an hour without seeing another bus go by. This is so strange. There were some other women at the stop who kindly directed us to the bus “terminal” (which is really a corner) where we would have a better chance of catching a bus before it was full. They ended up walking with us, wondering why nothing had passed in so long. It was when we got to the “terminal” that we heard about the accident. There were a lot of stories, but the main point concluded was that the road was blocked by big trucks and no one was passing. Cars were backed up for miles. Cabs were offering to take us to the crash and let us off at the back of line of traffic. Not helpful. With no possible way home for a while we headed back to the mall, for dinner, a phone, and internet accessibility. But it was getting late at this point. 9:30pm and everything was starting to close. We were able to call our disappointed housemates and eventually contact some of Bridget’s friends that live approximately 1 block from the mall that offered to let us sleep on their floor. But after visiting with them a while, we decided to try to make the trip home. We found a taxi that said it was possible to pass and he, thankfully, was right. We made it home at 11:30 that night. Birthday extravaganza. What an adventure. The next day was the day with no power or water for 7 or 8 hours—so we ate the lasagna cold, dang it. It forced me to do all kinds of non-technological work and prepare for turning in the first marking period grades and parent teacher conferences on Sunday. Monday a volunteer group arrived to spend two weeks working at our school. On Friday, Jaime and her husband Eli arrived. Jaime hired me to work here in Honduras. She is the founder of the organization and basically the big boss ;) So lots of people around, spontaneous celebratory events with the community and in our house. This is the whirlwind that was these past two weeks.

How am I doing? Wow. This week was the hardest since coming to Honduras. To explain it I have to tell you about Samir. Samir was abandoned by his parents as a baby to go to the United States. He then lived with his grandparents who he calls mom and dad. His grandfather recently passed away and his grandmother diagnosed with cancer. Earlier this year she left for the United States to get better treatment, leaving Samir and his brother Ivis with an uncle that treats them terribly. Marilyn has described Ivis as “dull” from the beginning of the year, but only now do we see him as a shell of a kid while Samir has responded very differently to grief. He is angry. And violent. He has never been taught or shown how to respond to anger other than physically. It has lately gotten out of control. No one in my class is safe from his wrath. He walks around drawing permanent marker on their work. I sat him next to two of my star students hoping that some of their obedience would rub off on him. He poked them in the eyes with a pencil. It was on Tuesday that I reached the end of my rope. I knew that when we were handing out papers, if someone bumped him by accident they would get punched, so I tried to troubleshoot. He ended up punching someone anyway and I asked him to sit outside in the hall. He threw his chair (wood with metal legs), he ripped up all his papers and threw them into the hall, threw the folder I gave him in the trash can, and took all of the students water bottles off of the window ledge where I have them keep them and threw them into the hall. He refused to go to the office. I scrounged up patience from somewhere—probably from the desire for him to remain in my class. He had tears running down his face. Meanwhile the rest of my students were saying that school was so boring that they weren’t going to come the next day. I felt completely defeated in every way. The day was over. Samir came to tell me that his grandmother was supposed to come on Friday, but her plane had been destroyed. He began to sob. I began to cry for him—this small boy that has already experienced so much tragedy, for his disappointment. I cried out of anger that they would fabricate a story about her plane to cover up her canceled return. I began to cry for me. For lack of an answer. For my lack of patience. For what seemed to me failure on my part to be a good teacher. Comparing myself to my colleagues with no educational training and feeling like I should be better at this than I am. Irlenda, the cleaning lady found me first, sobbing in my classroom. She wrapped her wrinkled arms around me, pressed her face into my shoulder and began crying softly with me, without any words. I was so upset I couldn’t form sentences in English, much less Spanish. I think I finally got out something like, “kids bad.” Irlenda is unconditional love and humility. She is an older woman—probably in her 60s—who works so hard and does such awful work, but I’ve never heard her complain once. Hilary says she thinks Irlenda is a diety disguised in human form here to test us. I would say that Irlenda has been a beautiful example and reminder of Christ’s love in my life here in Cofradía. Wednesday I didn’t know what hit me. Emily’s diagnosis was complete physical and emotional exhaustion. I came home from school and had to lie down. I couldn’t stand. I didn’t even sleep, but just laid there from 4-6:30pm. I got up long enough to eat a little something, take a shower, and look at my plans for the next day. I went to bed at 8. I was restless all night with a pounding headache and queasiness. I got up to throw up around 1 and then lay in bed planning out what I would write down for a sub (Jon or a combination of my housemates during their free periods) since there was no way I would be able to teach in the morning. Amazingly, I woke up feeling fine and actually went to school to teach on Thursday. I have been taking it easy since, trying not to push myself too hard. Boy was I glad for Friday to come. I had no idea that Friday would also turn out to be eventful in its own way. The LeapNow volunteers were leaving around lunchtime, so I had planned a little going away game during the period before with our class volunteer Flora. I didn’t realize that her leaving would have such an effect on my class. I mean, she only played hangman and duck, duck, goose with them a few times. I had around ten kids in my class start crying so hard that they couldn’t stop. It didn’t take me long to realize that this didn’t really have to do all that much with Miss Flora. Some of them cried for almost 2 hours. I had to go get our Honduran office assistant Kenia to come talk to them. I scratched science class and we just sang songs for a while with Kenia, in an attempt to raise their spirits. It wasn’t terribly successful. It was a long afternoon. I am even more thankful for this weekend than any weekend before.

Since this is practically a novel already, I’ll sign off here and write more later. 34 days until Christmas break.

Oh yeah. Not only did I have credit card fraud, but I also filed my taxes wrong, and yesterday my flight home for Christmas was canceled and I have to rebook it. Of course. I laughed, but only because honestly, what else can go wrong that would be even harder to fix from here. I’m not sure :) but I don’t want to find out!

I love you. I’m resting. I will get back to each and every one of you that wrote me a beautiful, wonderful letter. They made me so happy. And you must know that I opened everything immediately, my hair flapping in the wind, riding in the back of the pick-up truck, being teased about the positives of delayed gratification :) Thank you so much.

Back in action,