Dear average twenty-something American,

Here are 10 ways that my life is probably different from yours:

school

  1. I use a tiny prepaid phone that does not have a camera nor is even capable of receiving a picture message.
  2. I watch TV maybe once every 2 months.
  3. I walk to and from work and have consequently worn-out 5 pairs of shoes in 7 months.
  4. I get to eat better food than you (i.e. baleadas, pastelitos, tortilla con quesillo y chismol, tajadas con carne molida, taquitos, pupusas, quesadilla [like a cheesy cornbread], yuca frita, tostones, etc.)
  5. My salary is probably half or even less than half of what yours is.
  6. I often eat/drink things out of bags (i.e. water, mustard, mayo, ice cream, beans)
  7. I am surrounded by unspeakably beautiful scenery: flowers, mountains, etc.
  8. If I were to quote Madea, Bon Qui Qui or Nacho Libre no one around me would think it was funny.
  9. I don’t actually know the recent viral videos or blockbuster comedies to even quote…
  10. Several times a week a horse-drawn wooden cart passes by on the street, at school we have to wait for cattle to clear off of the kids’ “soccer field,” and occasionally a student will bring his pirated movie business to class.

And I can confidently say with a smile, I love my simple Honduran life.

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First or third world problem? Swimming to work in my dress pants.

There comes a time when everything new and exciting turns to routine. Always. The extraordinary becomes expected. And you feel as if you don’t really have any good stories to tell anymore. This will happen anywhere in the world you might find yourself and at any stage in life. And it takes a good waking up, a waft of inspiration, something shockingly beautiful or tragic, to remind the soul that today is just as much an adventure as yesterday was and that little miracles are happening all the time. It just takes a little recognition and gratitude.

Well, I’ve been pretty MIA lately in the blogosphere but I’m making a comeback. I mean, I have so many things to tell! So, here goes…

This is an excerpt from an entry I started a couple months ago about one morning heading to work at the elementary school here in Honduras:

…today reminds me a little of a book I read as a child, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

Well, it started out with a not-so-restful night’s sleep. I kept waking up with my feet burning because apparently in my sleep, unconsciously, I had been scratching the 27 mosquito bites (yes, I counted) on my ankles and feet. Despite applying hydrocortisone anti-itch ointment before laying down. Around 3:00 a.m. (2 hours before my alarm) I woke up with unbearable burning and itching around my ankles and toes. I applied more medicine and managed to drift back to sleep for a couple more hours.

  • Maybe it is my fault that I neglect to douse myself with insect repellant every day, or because I’m not eating enough garlic (I dunno, I heard that helps repel mosquitoes) but I can be in a crowd of people and no one gets one bite while my flesh is breaking out in hives. :/

I noticed that it started to rain pretty heavily last night and apparently it has not let up still. I fell asleep to the sound of the rain and woke up to the same at 5 a.m. to get ready for work. As I shuffled into the kitchen and pulled out the coffee pot, a gecko ran out from behind it and into the electrical box. Interesting choice of shelter. I continued with brewing my deliciously strong Central American coffee.

As I was choosing my shoes for the day I thought about the rain and mud that I would have to walk through to get to work so I opted for my tennis shoes instead of sandals or dress flats, thinking that would be sufficient. Little did I know that thigh-high rain boots would have been more appropriate.

I chugged my coffee, grabbed my backpack, keys, and umbrella and started out the door into the aquatic chaos that our neighborhood had transformed into. That was when I realized that the key to get out of the front gate was absent from my keychain. After scrambling inside to check any place that it could have fallen and then back outside to stare unbelievingly into the rushing torrents of rain around my feet, I realized that I really was not going to find the key and it had potentially fallen onto the ground and been washed away by the water. After running around outside searching for my keys just long enough to significantly soak my backpack and all its contents, I was able to reach Angie (children’s home director) on the phone and had her open her gate for me to leave.

A couple blocks away I started to realize that not many people were out and as I approached the edge of the sidewalk where I had to cross the street I began considering turning around and going back home. I debated it for a moment then decided to trek on. I launched myself into the knee-high rushing river that the street had turned into. I just kept thinking, There is no telling what is flowing in this water. I forced my way through the water to the other side of the street.

When I finally reached the school I was soaked. My pants were drenched up to the belt loops and my umbrella had done nothing to preserve the contents of my backpack. And so much for those tennis shoes…

By the time I arrived, the school had decided to close for the day due to the city being in a state of emergency for flooding. Good to know, I thought. (one reason for flooding in the city is lack of good drainage systems) The school staff assumed that I wouldn’t come or that I would know to stay home… nope. I guess it would be beneficial to check the morning news or something. Eventually, I was able to catch a ride home. There was no way I was going to fight for my life again just to walk a few blocks back to the house.

Thankfully I have not had another experience quite as stressful. Looking back now, it is just a fun story but in the moment it was not cool.

And I eventually found my keys. All is well. 🙂

Kids say the darndest things. And life would be boring otherwise.

I love being a teacher. I really never planned on being one. But I love it. I have 45+ students calling me Miss (which is pronounced more like Meess) and they listen in awe when I tell them the story about flying here from the United States. I know I only have two days under my belt but I can already tell that it is going to be an eventful year. The classroom is like a breeding ground for hilarious writing material. Kids really do say the darndest things…

Things I have been told so far:

  • Two “I love you’s” and one “la quiero,” (which also means “I love you”) from a soft-spoken first grade girl whom I did not understand the first two times and repeated it until I got it. Love is an unfortunate thing to misunderstand.
  • One “Meess, the color of your eyes is beeyooteefull!
  • I was asked, “What does ‘When I see your face…’ mean in Spanish?” And after I told him he proceeded to sing the entire chorus of Bruno Mars’ top hit. Without. Understanding. A word.
  • I gave a brief introduction of myself and my family to the first grade class. One child offered the information that her mother was pregnant. Then the class erupted as all fifteen students had to raise their hand and tell me about their pregnant mother, aunt or dog. (But I certainly remember being that age and being proud that my mom was pregnant with my first baby brother)
  • Really any time I say anything about anything my students have a related story… like how they have a friend or a relative who lives in the U.S. or that the shoes that they are wearing were sent to them from the states or how their older sister is the same age as me. All wonderful little facts that bring us closer together and blur the line of difference between us.

These last three days of this week is called Ambientación. We don’t have an English word for it but it is pretty much “environment adjustment.” The kids come for short days and we don’t keep to a strict schedule. They are pretty much easing back into school. We will begin the real coursework on Monday.

Lesson planning is just short of killing me. But is it weird that I get excited to teach the four different types of sentences, creative writing and then eventually sentence diagramming?! Yay!

I have been waking up before the sun and going to bed by 9:00 pm. I know. Pick your jaw up off the floor.

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In other news: I have a photography gig this weekend at a quinceañera birthday party and I am working on some updates for the children’s home, Hope House.

nohe & lilly

Lilly and Nohe’s photo shoot.

Yesterday, Angie and I took baby Nohe and her dog, Lilly, to the park for a little photo shoot that I have been asking to do for a little while. We coordinated Nohe’s outfit to match Lilly’s bows and had it all planned out. I got a few cute shots (out of 700+) but I think the odds were against us. I felt like I was on a reality TV show doing a photography challenge. Nohe was feeling under the weather and was very leery about the location we chose… mainly because of the itchy grass. Meanwhile, I was stepping/kneeling in horse manure and Lilly darted into the street twice after Angie took her leash off. (I also have a few photos of the chase scene) I know Angie was scared to death for her dog but I couldn’t help but laugh. The whole situation was cracking me up. The only one who wasn’t giggling was the usually-bubbly and camera-ready Nohe. She was more interested in pulling her cute new hot pink bows out of her hair and trying to eat her new beaded bracelets. She was a tough model to work with that day. But I am not dismayed… There will be other photo ops. I will be here for the next year after all. 🙂

Teacher meetings + adapting to the culture

I completed my first week ever of teacher meetings of my first year ever of teaching. 🙂

Time to celebrate? Ok, maybe not yet. We did have chocolate cake today at the school but it was in celebration of the Spanish teacher’s birthday. I can appreciate coworkers who know how to throw a party and make my blood sugar shoot through the roof.

I’m here in Honduras at this newer Christian bilingual school. My coworkers have been wonderful so far and I can not wait to meet my students! (I’ve seen the uniforms – there is no way that a small Honduran child in those little pleated skirts and shorts wouldn’t be cute.)

Humorous Cultural Differences: (I will often write about cultural differences and try to do so objectively although it is almost impossible to remove the lens from which I see the world, which is “American.” I ask the reader to have grace on my observations as I try to reflect on them in a culturally sensitive manner. Nothing written is intended to belittle the Honduran way of life nor to promote imperialistic ideas. I think both cultures have valuable things to learn from one another.)

  • While the rest of the teachers are relaxed, sitting around the room with empty desktops I am taking notes and marking down specific dates and times in my calendar like the anal retentive gringa that I can’t help but be. While they are deciding what they might buy from the pulpería down the street for lunch I am thinking, “crap, my agenda only goes through December 2012!” More than one time I have been told, “tranquilaaa.” (as to say, “take it easy.”) It is a motto that I am gladly learning.
  • The daily newspaper is alive and well here. While back in the states the daily news has been going digital for a while (I certainly did not grow up reading the paper, nor feel inclined to pick the habit up now) a lot of people in Honduras, including youth, read the daily paper.
  • …that being said, the postal service leaves a lot to be desired… snail mail, handwritten letters, what?
  • BUT they still teach cursive in school. (Whilst our American kids couldn’t read a formal handwritten letter to save their lives…)

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We just completed the teacher schedules. I am relieved to have not been assigned one single Science class. (They were considering it and I started to hyperventilate having flashbacks to my 7th grade bug project… ugh!) My schedule is packed and pretty pesado and even though I didn’t get one Spelling class, I ended up with Language 1-6 grade and Reading 1-3 grade and a couple phonics classes. I am ecstatic to start creative writing with my students. 🙂 I wrote my first short story when I was in first grade with my wonderful first grade teacher, Mrs. Sabrina Wilks. I am looking forward to inspiring some hungry minds, feeding their imaginations and hoping that (at least) some of them will fall in love with reading and writing… aside from the valuable skill of becoming proficient in the English language and learning about cultures outside of their own. What an opportunity to influence and form such young, precious lives. I take this responsibility seriously and pray that God gives me the words to speak each day. Pray for me?

*side note: One of the older girls at the children’s home where I am living (separate from the school) heard that a gym in our neighborhood might offer zumba classes. ZUMBA CLASSES. That announcement, albeit a rumor at this point, was music to my ears. We will investigate that and see if we can sign up to shake off some of these beans, rice and tortillas.