Life in the USA (inglés y español!)

Hispanic Heritage month started September 15th here in the U.S. with the Independence Days of five Central American countries (including Honduras) and then Mexico. I thought I would share a few stories and thoughts on Latino culture and immigrants over the next four weeks here in my blog. And I will try to keep each post bilingual!


I just recently got this little book to use in my adult ESL classes called “Life in the USA: An Immigrant’s Guide to Americans” and I am cracking up. It’s like someone took all the things I have said to Natán (my boyfriend) and my other Latino friends and put it in a book. It is written in the form of letters from foreign students to their teachers expressing concerns over confusing social situations.

photo-11

My favorite was the lady who was confused as to why her American co-worker who spoke a little Spanish was offended when she said “Hey, gordita” to her. Yes, in Hispanic culture it is very common to affectionately call someone by any physical characteristic (be it positive or negative) they might have. Friends and family members often call each other “blackie” or “fatty.” Sweet. I know. *eye roll*

In the response, the teacher had to explain that Americans are typically more sensitive about certain things like weight and that saying “hey fatty” is NOT an appropriate greeting in the USA. Haha!

Natán has a few choice pet names for me all of which sound ridiculous when translated to English. But he knows what would happen if he ever used “gordita” on me!

Screen Shot 2014-09-12 at 5.36.29 PM

Thank God for Skype dates while he is in seminary thousands of miles away!

Acabo de recibir este librito para usar en mis clases de inglés acá en estados unidos se llama “La Vida en USA: Un Guía a los Americanos para el Inmigrante” y me está dando risa. Parece qué alguien tomó todas las cosas que he dicho yo a Natán (mi novio) y a mis compañeros latinos y las puso en un libro. Está escrito en la forma de cartas de estudiantes extranjeros a sus profesores expresando preocupaciones sobre situaciones sociales confusas.

Mi favorita fue una carta escrita por una mujer preguntando porque se había ofendido a una compañera de trabajo después de decirle, “hola, gordita.” Las personas bilingües y bi-culturales como yo (corazón latino en un cuerpo gringo me dicen) entendemos que es un apodo cariñoso pero a traducirlo a inglés suena horrible! Nunca debe de decirlo a una persona que no entiende la cultura hispana, jaja.

El profesor tuvo que responder y explicar que los americanos son mas sensibles con ciertos temas como lo de peso. Así que “hola, gordita” NO es un saludo apropiado para nosotros. 😛

Natán tiene algunos apodos chistosos para mi y suenan ridículos traducidos a inglés pero él sabe bien lo que pasaría si me dijera “gordita!”

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.

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.

————————————

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…)

——–

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.

The Scoop: My move to Honduras

The not-so-detailed Details and not-very-concrete Facts:

  • I am flying out on one of the last few days of July.
  • I will be teaching English at a Christian bilingual elementary school in the city.
  • School will start (approximately) one week after my arrival. (aah!) *update: no it won’t. I’ll have a few weeks. Whew!
  • I will be working closely with Angie and Hope House.
  • The school year will end (approximately) in June.
  • I will need (approximately) $1000 up front for traveling expenses and some necessities before I receive my first paycheck from the school. It is unclear to predict how much monthly support I might need at this time. Once I know I will update my blog. (if you haven’t watched my support video, please do!)

Some students and me in Darien, Panama from October 2011.

Here’s the thing, I have already committed to participating in Argo Christian Fellowship’s annual medical missions trip (which I love) the first week of July. I have managed to raise enough funds for that trip and, like usual, we will spend our week in Copán, hosting clinics in various villages. This is just the beginning of my crazy month of July – from there I will return home from Honduras, get ready for the wedding of my best friend, Brianna, have a few days at home to pack before I leave to work a conference in Florida and then on to Honduras to live. I don’t know at which point in those 30+ days I will have a chance to sleep but I can at least count on it being interesting.

I am very excited about having students and having a classroom and being able to pour into such impressionable lives to impact their futures. I’ve been reading a self-help book for teachers that belongs to my friend who teaches ESL at a local elementary school. I am only a few pages in but it might be changing my life, haha. I am kind of in the oh-crap-I-hope-I’m-prepared-for-this stage. (hence, the Clase de Inglés teaching Pinterest board I just created)

Pray that I will be prepared to take on the responsibility of a classroom and that I will be able to break through any cultural barriers to effectively reach the hearts and minds of these little ones.