Sarah's Adventures in Honduras

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.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

job woes

It is hard to grasp the knowledge of the small amount of time left in school. Two more “real” weeks which is only 10 days which sounds completely ridiculous. Then comes exams, recuperations, a week of vacation, and a 5 days of saying goodbye and packing up before it is again unknown when I will make it back down to Honduras. And it is unknown what will be the location for the next chunk of time in my life. And I am a person that doesn’t deal with that all that well. The kind of girl that has a plan and a back-up plan and a back-up back-up plan. But I’m learning to trust. That God will show me the next stretch of the path when I need to see, and that for now I just need to be obedient in where I am and what I am doing.

I was going to send a cover letter and a resume today, but it always just strikes me as WRONG when I feel like I should delete parts of my cover letter about my passion for urban education or Spanish since those parts wouldn’t be as relevant for the job. So maybe I won’t apply for the job...

This week Irma came up to me with little pieces of Styrofoam in her hair. It should always be a red flag if someone comes up to you with little pieces of Styrofoam in their hair when you aren’t using little pieces of Styrofoam, but in fact, Styrofoam cups. Before I had the change to scold her for destroying the materials for our science experiment, she said to me, “Hello, I come from the Far North.” At which point I burst out laughing. It had to have come from a movie. I don’t think I ever used “Far North” exactly to describe coming from Michigan.

The weather has been glorious. And by glorious I mean heavily clouded to block the sun’s rays :) It has been ominous these past couple of days and I have been excited with the prospect of a thunderstorm (slim chances). Yesterday the nubes just couldn’t hold it any longer. It was the first downpour in months. The kids went nuts. They immediately jumped out of their seats to peer out the window and began to chant and sing in Spanish about rain. Good thing there was only about 5 minutes left until lunch so after heavily warning them about not getting “too wet” or splashing mud all over their uniform which would “make their mothers very angry,” we went to get a closer look at the rain. I have definitely learned that it is NOT worth it to go against a flow that strong. You just strive to keep their flow under your control. Way less stress. Way happier life.

My children have made it out of the present

That’s right. They now have a minimal vocabulary to communicate that things have actually happened to them in the past. It is beautiful when they whip out one of those words. Said, ate, went, was—all sweet sweet music to my ears. I couldn’t help but laugh when Orlando was trying to tell me something—I think he was actually tattling at the moment and he got a little caught in his words. The whole class paused while I called on Orlando for his statement, he sputtered, “He, he…He he he he…He SAID (which he yelled)” and I broke into a grin, which may or may not have been all that appropriate in the moment, and had to chuckle silently.

Sometimes I feel like my students and I are at about the same place in our ability to communicate in another language. I’ve got them beat at reading and writing though ;)

Pinnies have revolutionized P.E.

I never even knew what a pinny was—well, unnamed I am familiar with the team marking strategy that goes way back—shirts vs. skins, etc. But having colored mesh shirts to distinguish soccer and kickball teams has really done a little something to save my sanity twice a week. No longer is my mind spinning from trying to remember which kid goes with which team—mentally trying to calculate if I decided on even table numbers against odd table numbers, or if today I decided to switch it up and it is tables 1,2, 7 vs. 3, 4, 6, 5 or something else random. Which leads me to strenuously trying to mentally categorize the kids into their table numbers while they run down the field. Which leads to why I usually just stand it the shade and cheer for everyone hoping that they figure it out. Once in a while I give my (wo)man-produced whistle to make an announcement or remind them to be conscious about their “accidental” pushing.

The only trouble is that the pinnies don’t actually fit my children. They fall of their small bodies and catch around the elastic at their waists. I have taken to knotting the pinnies on either shoulder (or both for the littlest), an endeavor that takes about 20 minutes of P.E. The more hardcore players who just want to get playing often let the pinny fall to their waist, and they let it hang down in tutu-fashion. Or in their frustration toss it into a tree, to come back to collect later. And then I am back where I started, chasing them around the field asking, “Blue or orange?”

Monday, May 07, 2007

thoughts of wireless internet or drinking water that comes from the tap are blowing my mind today.

4 more real weeks of school. UNreal. Yesterday we realized that there are no more days when it will just be us. That is even crazier than the 4 weeks of school reality. We´ve laughed about how many visitors we get for being backcountry Honduras :)

Sunday, May 06, 2007

I've realized that no one emails on the weekends. Except for me. And I'm slowly learning to be ok with that.

It's raining. It's like the break in the fever. May it be the end of the 97 feels like 107 degree weather in my life.

a story I recently shared with a friend...

so I´ve been trying to spend lots of my free moments wandering to different students´ homes to hang out with them and their families. I had Tuesday off from school and decided to go play at the house of one of my favorite families (mostly because I met the beautiful baby just days after she was born). When I go we usually play duck duck gooseand run through their tiny one room house in pursuit of the ducker.This time when I went into the house to set down my backpack, I was startled to see a big momma chicken in the corner. She had made her nest in the corner of their one room house! My student, Juan Carlos,went right over and lifted her off of her nest to show me all of theeggs she was sitting on to hatch. There were two little baby chicks just chillin´ and he told me that they had been born that morning. He encouraged me to try to pick up the mom, and laughed at my nervous false-starts. I didn´t want to hurt her! And I didn´t know where to grab! It was a good think I hesitated because when he reached down to show me how to do it she gave him a peck! I don´t know how sanitary it is to let a chicken and her babies live in the corner of your one room house, but that wasn´t what I was thinking at the time. I was thinking that it was all very Wendell Berry :)

Saturday, May 05, 2007


It’s almost 8:30 and I think I’m going to head to bed. I’m writing because I have the time, but I’m also procrastinating going to bed because 8:30 is such a wimpy bedtime.

I’ve been having funny teaching dreams lately. This morning I actually woke up putting my kids into alphabetical order without a list, or something ridiculous and stressful like that. I had one I think you’ll appreciate—but I’ll set it up for you first. I am a history non-buff. I’m actually rather ashamed of my lack of ability to retain a single historical fact—it is perhaps physically impossible for me. I’ve passed all classes containing historical information only by the sheer endurance of my short-term memory. Anyway, that mixed with being asked how to write moustache during journaling time, and looking at the word with complete lack of confidence in my spelling of it—I mean, come on, how often do I write the word moustache. Had I ever written the word moustache before that very day? My nightmare: I had to teach a lesson on Thomas Jefferson. I felt good about it. People were asking me if I was going to prepare and I responded, “What’s there to prepare? Everyone knows about Thomas Jefferson.” Then I got up in front of the class and all I could think of to say was that he had long hair and a moustache (the latter isn’t even true, right?) I think I woke up sweating from that one.

Though not the only time I have woken up sweating lately…

So yesterday was “labor day” around here, making Monday night “Friday night.” We stayed up until at least 10 and were eagerly anticipating sleeping in the next morning until at least 7. (I know--weird life). Until…I woke up at 11:32, sweating profusely, mere moments I’m told, after the power went out. This was one of those sleeping-without-the-fan nights that would have been unbearable. So I put on the flip flops and headed out to the hammock. Bridget followed soon after (our room is an oven), and I actually managed to sleep comfortably until 2:30am when I decided to head back into the house. The power stayed out until around 11:30 that morning—but we missed it due to our río adventure.

It started with packing 11 people, 3 coolers, an inflatable pool and raft (with oars) into the back of a pick-up truck. After boarding, the truck actually played dead in front of our house for at least a half an hour. We sat there crowded into the truck bed, sweating on each other, contemplating the possibility of this trip not really happening. But after a few minutes of clunking and banging, she roared to life and we were on our way. We drove only about 15 minutes out of town and another 20 off-roading down a path to our vacation destination. Our first sight was of a man sitting inside of a pila taking a bath. It made us chuckle and slightly jealous—who wouldn’t want to chill in their pila!?

It was here at the río that I encountered the grassy piece of earth I’ve been fantasizing about all year (who would have thought I would fantasize about Commons Lawn :)) The trouble was that it turned out to be grass like any other grass in Honduras—so sharp that it cut through my towel scratching up my legs and spreading a rash wherever it touched. (This always happens when I try to play duck duck goose, too). So I hit the río in a giant blow up boat with two miniature oars that weren’t really cut out to do the job. Lisa took front, me lounging in the rear, and we paddled full force toward tiny tiny rapids in the distance. When we realized that we were kicking and paddling with everything in us and still not moving, we decided to give up. To give you the contrast of our competitive natures: Lisa felt like a failure, while I commented, “That’s alright. This is a very nice distance to view the rapids.” ;)