Tuesday, June 1, 2010

I'm terribly embarrassed by my lack of blog-writing. The guilt crept up on me several times throughout the past mmm....6....months but I unfortunately ignored it. Mil disculpas (1,000 apologies). So you know what it took to get me focused and writing again?? Wisdom teeth SURGERY!!!

That's right! On Friday I got all four of my wisdom teeth pulled in a surgeon's office in Tegus (Tegucigalpa). I was a bit nervous since my only other surgery in my life was getting a little freckle removed from my cheek and even just thinking about that surgery made me pass out, five-starred on the welcome mat of the dermotologist's office :-)

I couldn't have a better report about the 100% Honduran surgery. I was only given a local anesthesia but it took no longer than 45 minutes for the extractions and they finished it off with the Honduran signature injection in the butt. I was honestly more nervous about the injection than the surgery. The worst part was the "home" injection I had to get the next morning. Apparently it's a common practice to give injections at home so I just went to the pharmacy, filled my shot prescriptions and walked away with the solution and syringes...LARGE syringes might I add. Uuuuuffffff......it really hurt.

I regret not writing more often, because I know the recaps and highlights of the last 6 months will do my experience NO justice. But know that I've been busy, challenged and blessed abundantly.

Here are just some of the highlights...more to come!

My parents and my brother David came to visit the day after Christmas!!! We had a fantastic time doing all things Honduran. Although it was a short visit, but they were able to walk around Tegus, eat lots of traditional food, meet my Honduran family and friends and sight-see throughout the country! On our way to the northern coast we stopped at a beautiful lake that is known for its delectable fried fish and my dad, my brother and I did an insane waterfall tour and rock-jumping adventure nearby. When we got to the beach we enjoyed sipping from coconuts, swimming in the Caribbean Sea and long mountainous hikes with "Honduran experience" written all over it! :-)

In February I started a new school year with a new class of 4th graders, ages 9-15. In my opinion they were/(still are?) the rowdiest group in the whole school. Eleven boys and eight girls; let's just say it wasn't long before they pulled out my first white hairs!! Four months of trial-and-error, exhausting school days and lots of laughing, but I've decided to stay until November in order to finish the school year with them. And I'll be home for Thanksgiving!!

I never would have guessed it, but I've turned into quite the cake-baker in the last several months. I started making cakes for my students' birthdays and everyone was so impressed that they started putting in orders. Baking is kind of a mystery to most Hondurans because they don't or didn't have ovens in their homes; so it's not something kids inherintly learn from their mothers. The mother of the family I live with (Chuchi) is a quick learner and very creative so we've had lots of fun and many late nights creating or salvaging homeade masterpieces. We even made a wedding cake for a girl from our church who got married. We were asked to make it on Thursday and the wedding was on Friday, but with the help of another North American who had taken some cake decorating classes it turned out beautifully!!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Sacapuntas and Scorpions....and the multi-purpose knife!

So it's been a crazy last month finishing up the school year, going on two different MCC retreats, getting by without the Internet for over a month because paperwork never got processed and fighting off scorpions in my bedroom!

It's hard to believe, but I already finished my first year of teaching. Everyone says first year is the hardest, but it's not so bad when you only have about 3 months to begin with and then those get cut short by three day long Children's Day celebrations, country-wide curfews, Independence Day week-long vacations, random days off because Honduras made it into the 2010 World Cup, and a plethora of other interruptions. Although we finished the regular school year the students will continue to come for daily activities until mid-December. I am currently instructing Pilates three times a week, which has been an interesting but mostly successful experience so far. On Friday I'm going to give the class to 4th, 5th and 6th grade boys and girls so I'm not really sure what to expect. Since we don't have mats the students have been squeezing on area rugs that we found in the market that will also be of use later in the day care and kindergarten rooms. Even though I still see my students at AFE, I really miss them. They are such a special group of kids.

I had to laugh at myself the other week when I asked one of my students, "Jose Luis, did you bring your knife to school today?" And I was hoping his answer would be "yes." For awhile when I first started, only one of my students had a pencil sharpener so they were always interrupting class asking for a pencil sharpener. Jose Luis started bringing a knife to school (and I'm not talking about a pocket knife, but a big hand knife) and chiseling his pencil to a point whenever he needed. That concerned me slightly so that's the day I decided it was urgent to find a pencil sharpener for the whole class. It had worked well for several weeks, but then one of my student's pencils had lost the majority of its lead somehow and I knew it would take him forever to sharpen it with that tiny little "sacapuntas." I knew Jose Luis' knife would have done a much better job but unfortunately/fortunately?? he didn't bring his knife to school...

So the other day I came home from school SOOO tired that the yarn-like shape on the wall near the top of my ceiling that looked like it could be a scorpion didn't even phase me and I took an 1 1/2 nap on my bed instead of bothering to find out what it was. When I woke up the figure was still on my wall, but it had moved slightly. I kept my eye on it and it was no longer moving, so I ignored it. A little while later Michele, the 12 year old niece of the family I live with came to my room and I pointed out the figure on the wall. She started screaming that it was a scorpion and ran to call the dad to "HURRY" up to the house to kill it. Then she told me I better get out of my room because those things are dangerous!! The dad came up with a big hand knife and I knew it was trouble when he poked it in the butt and it just scurried up to the ceiling into the hole between my cinder block walls and the tin roof. He insisted that he poked a hole in its tail and that it would dry up and die, but I was still a bit nervous. He later told me that scorpions normally travel in pairs so then I was really nervous since I had a vengeful scorpion still hanging around my room. I was thankful to have my mosquito net in that moment, but I wasn't convinced it was going to protect me from the other scorpion. Fortunately, that night right before I went to bed I saw the other scorpion, which was a bit smaller start B-lining down my wall. I knew it was coming to attack me because the other scorpion had hardly moved the several hours it was in my room before being poked in the butt by Eduardo. I was in the house alone, but fortunately I thought quick enough to go running to Eduardo and Chuchi's room for the knife and I grabbed my rain boot from under my bed. I realized in that moment that I had no clue how to kill a scorpion, but I was thankful for the brief although incomplete lesson that Eduardo gave me hours earlier. I smacked the little scorpion with my rain boot which stunned it and made it fall to the ground, then I chopped it into two to make sure that I was dead. YUCK..... but at least I slept peacefully that night.

I haven't had another encounter with a scorpion since that night, which was probably about a month ago. HOWEVER,....as I was sitting here in the living room writing this blog out of the corner of my eye I saw one scurry across the floor. I felt prepared and capable to handle this challenge since I had done so well in the first battle. I grabbed my shoe and had the knife in hand, just in case the shoe stunt didn't work. This scorpion had a will to live because it survived two powerful smacks with the rainboot and continued to scurry towards the wall. When I poked it the first time with the knife it just scurried along the wall behind the kitchen oven. I moved the oven away and cut off its tail with the knife. The little sucker kept going and strategically placed himself between the wall and a glass bookcase filled with ceramic collectibles. I had no choice but to poke the knife around in the crack between the wall and the glass shelves and it was forced to scurry out. When it revealed itself I chopped it in half again only for it to continue scurrying towards its haven behind the oven. I made one final chop and left it in several pieces, but somehow there must have been a few legs left on the part with the head because it continued to crawl, but I knew I had won. Disgusting, huh???

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Oh, Natural Sciences....

The above photos were taken at AFE during recess. The garbage dump is at the top of the hill in the first photo. The second photo is the building that my classroom is in. The window to my room is on the first floor just behind the stairs. I took the photo from another building that is identical to this one. The blue building in the background is the brand new dining hall that all the students eat lunch in every day!
(I apologize for the awful formatting...I couldn't seem to get it quite right).
My weeks have gotten a bit busier as we've actually had 2 full weeks of school! Michelletti announced last week that October 17th will be the last day of school for all public schools. Normally classes go until mid-late November (Honduran school year is from January-November), but since the elections are starting in November he decided it would be better that class was not in session during that time...I'm not quite sure why. The public education school system has really suffered this year in Honduras. Many Hondurans have explained to me that public education is really weak here, but this year has been the worst in a long time.
Fortunately, since AFE is not funded by the government our students are not affected by the government-imposed termination of classes. AFE students will study normal school curriculum through November and then they continue to come every day for extra-curricular activities until the week before Christmas.

I've really been enjoying teaching the fourth grade class! It's a blessing to have this responsibility because its keeps me busy and I truly enjoy being able to create lessons and activities to engage the students in learning.
It's been an interesting experience for me to teach Natural Sciences. Anyone who knows me well knows that I do NOT like to think about anything that has to do with the inside of the body...if I think about it too long I tend to get dizzy and have been known to pass out!! (I definitely passed out in 5th grade Science class as a child). Haha, so I've had to take mini-breaks when I'm reading through the Science book while preparing my lessons. Next week I have to teach about sicknesses and contagious diseases...disgusting! And this past week I was charged with the task of teaching the human reproductive system as well as puberty and adolescence! God really has a sense of humor because this is NOT the first time that I've taught this lesson to Spanish-speaking children. I taught it three years ago in Guatemala to children at the Compassion International School (I hardly spoke Spanish then...those poor kids). I never thought I would ever have to teach this lesson to a group of kids, let alone in Spanish, let alone TWICE in Spanish! But, those of you who know me also know that I somewhat enjoy awkward situations and this definitely qualifies as awkward; not for me, but for the students. Since my students are 11-13 years old, I expected that the majority of them would have already talked about this topic with someone. I asked them to raise their hands if anyone had ever talked to them about anything like this and I was shocked when not one student raised his/her hand.
Tomorrow we have off for Colombus Day and Thursday afternoon I leave for a retreat with MCC about an hour away from Tegucigalpa. I will only be with my students for 3 days this week and we only have 6 weeks left before we're supposed to hand in grades for the year. Please pray for my time with the students. There's a lot to learn in six weeks and it's difficult to make the most of the little time we have together in the classroom when I'm spending so much time managing their behavior. I know every teacher reading this can sympathize. So please pray that the Lord gives me and my students wisdom, patience, lots of fun and the ability to apply ourselves fully!!!

Monday, September 21, 2009

The FUN continues...and Mel's back

This Saturday our church went on a trip to this cool place in the woods where there were a bunch of natural/man-made pools. I know that's an oxymoron but it's hard to describe. Since there are mountains everywhere in Honduras this place had a river/stream flowing down the mountain and each of the different levels of the mountain these cement pools were constructed, but each one flowed right into the other through mini waterfalls. And then there were even some picnic areas and grills at some of the pools so after 20 of the youth from the church got baptized in the pools we had a huge cookout and partied the rest of the day! It was lots of fun!

We had our first day back today after almost a week and a half of no classes. When I arrived at the school this morning I saw tons of students flooding out of my classroom. Haha, apparently there had been two mice in my classroom when the students showed up this morning. The girls were screaming and the boys were chasing the mice. I saw them go after one of the mice with a broom trying to kill it. I was standing outside with the girls when one of my students approached me holding the mouse by its tail. He had a huge grin on his face. Then one of the other boys wacked it out of his hand and about three boys leaped to catch it again. When the mouse excitement died down one of my students brought me a fruit called guayaba, which I think is guava in English. It's very tasty and I just chuckled because teachers in the U.S. typically receive apples from their students (at least back in the day) and I get guayabas from my students in Honduras!

So apparently Mel Zelaya (Hondura's president who was kicked out back in June) is back in Honduras. There were rumors flying this morning that somehow he got back into Tegucigalpa, so I was advised not to go into the city to avoid any potential trouble. Zelaya's supporters were rallying and no one knew what to expect. It was confirmed in the afternoon that Mel indeed had somehow gotten back into the country and was being protected in the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa. Mid-afternoon all the news channels that were covering Zelaya's return were turned off by the government. Micheletti also issued a national curfew starting at 4pm until 7am tomorrow morning, but I just heard that it has been extended until tomorrow night at 6pm. This evening the mom of the family I'm living with brought me a candle and some matches to my room just in case the power got shut off. Back in June when the coup happened the electricity was shut off for awhile (I don't remember how long exactly, almost 24 hours maybe).

Needless to say, tomorrow we don't have school. That's why I'm up so late writing this blog. It's 11pm here and I'm almost always in bed by 9:30. It's crazy, but I get tired here so early and if I didn't have anything to do I could probably go to bed at 8:30 every night. The sun goes down at about 6pm every day in Honduras. I thought that would be really hard to get used to since I hate winters in PA, but so far it's been fine. The sun comes up at about 5:30am so it's much easier to get up early and since I enjoy the morning it works out just fine. I do sometimes feel totally lame though when I'm ready for bed at 8pm...zzzzz

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Fall break already??? sweet....

I would love to post some pictures for you to visualize my experiences here...unfortunately I don't have the cord I need to transfer photos from my camera to the computer and my backup plan of just putting the memory card in the computer failed. I guess those 7 in 1 media inputs accept everything but Olympus cards. No worries...I'm going to figure something out, but if you have any suggestions I could use some help!

Tuesday was Independence Day in Honduras (and all of Central America). However, the day was not celebrated in Honduras with the usual patriotism and parades. It seemed like many Hondurans didn't see a reason to celebrate this year in spite of the current political turmoil.

We did get a full week off for Independence Day though. This "break" came at a great time, because it allows me to look ahead a bit in the curriculum I'm teaching and start planning. I really am thankful for this position. I'm going to be a learning just as much as my students if not more and I'm sure that my busy schedule will make Christmas time come sooner (my parents and brother are coming to visit)!!

Since we had some extra time off I went to a beautiful lake called Lago de Yojoa for the weekend with two other families from the United States who work at the school. We had a great time! I had actually stopped at the same lake on the way from San Pedro Sula to Tegucigalpa. This time however, we stayed in a hotel for two nights and were able to do more touristy things than just eat the delicious fried fish at a lakeside restaurant. We went for a boatride, went to see a beautiful waterfall, hung out by the pool which overlooks the magnficent lake with the mountaneous backdrop while listening to salsa music and watching people dance, and we went to a national park. On our way back to Tegus, Elise, her 2 year old son and I stopped at a really cool restaurant. The food was delicious, the servers were dressed up in traditional Honduran clothes, they had a toucan, rabbits and monkeys in cages outside, they sold scrumptious strawberries and I was even able to buy a bag of coconut granola!! So far granola with yogurt and honey has been my home sweet home treat. And the road from San Pedro to Tegus just happens to have several honey stands along the way! I've really been enjoying my "taste of home" snack :-) Bad news...Honduras has a shortage of really good dark chocolate. Good thing I haven't been too homesick yet!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Dia de los ninos at the President's house!

When I was little I always asked my parents why there wasn't a Children's Day if there was a Mother's Day and a Father's Day. Their response was always that EVERY day is Children's Day. Although I do agree to some extent, I'm excited to announce that Honduras has got it right and they do have a Children's Day! It's on September 10th and is normally celebrated with lots of candy, pinatas, and gifts. However, the children of AFE (the school that I teach at) were invited by the first lady to a celebration at the President's house! Four big buses picked us up at AFE Wednesday morning and we were escorted by military officers to the Casa Presidencial (Presidential House). They entertained the kids all morning with clowns, inflatables, cotton candy, snow cones, gifts, games, lunch and a tour of the President's house. The kids had a good time and we were on Honduran news all day. One newstation was recording live and unfortunately I couldn't escape fast enough from the reporter so I had to answer her questions! I was really nervous but praise Jesus because I understood what she asked and I don't think I made a huge fool out of myself on national television.

Since the official Children's Day was on Thursday we continued celebrating with the kids on Thursday and Friday. Different groups from the community came to AFE to run programs for the kids. I'm really thankful for the extra time these activities have given me to prepare for my future classes. Also, it's been a great opportunity to just hang out with my students and get to know them on a personal level. They REALLY are a SPECIAL group of students. I have 20 4th graders who range in age from 9-13 years old. I taught my first lesson on natural sciences and the kids thought it was pretty funny that the word we use in English for kidneys is a type of bean....a food they are very familiar with!

It's going to be a challenge to step in as the 4th grade teacher but it is definitely something I am very excited about and I'm confident that God knew what he was doing when he gave me this opportunity. I'm looking forward to all I will learn through my first official teaching position and I couldn't ask for a better group of students!