Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Week Two in Honduras

Have you ever heard of a 'plantain'? Neither have I. It looks like a large, green banana and tastes like a potato and they're everywhere in Honduras! Today I bought banana chips for my granola at the 'pulperia' but turns out they were plantains, thus actually potato chips. If I'm lucky, sometimes after class on my walk back home I'll run into Isabel, a local woman who carries fresh homemade pastries in a huge tupperwear bowl above her head to sell. She has banana bread, ginger cookies, coconut buns, cinnamon rolls and sometimes pineapple flatbread/pie for 5 lemps each, about 20 cents. Milk comes in liters of plastic bags, and I'm starting to think that 'leche' sounds tastier than 'milk'.

I love it when it rains here. The heavy clouds block the burning sun all day, and then the rain pours graciously over all the cement houses, the unkept fields, the rocky dirt paths. Sometimes we're outside and there's nothing we can do but embrace it-we're already usually soaked in sweat and coated with dust anyway. When the rain passes, which it never ceases to do so quickly, the air is cool and relieving...and even if for just a few hours, it feels clean.

We got a few more volunteers in this week which really helped liven the beach house up! I've also been making new friends around the village and I'm learning new words and phrases in Spanish everyday, like "I think..." "Should I...?" and things to say to students like "Sit down!" and "Come here!" I even have a language exchange buddy group who meet me by the beach on Mondays, and we get carried away speaking in broken English/Spanish about sushi and robberies.

This week, we started a regular schedule for Kinder which was wonderful to be a part of! The kiddos say a prayer every morning and before snack time, thanking God for the flowers, animals, their homes and their cuteness...?! I question my Spanish comprehension a lot. We also started following a weekly lesson plan I wrote for PEP classes that put me at ease. I have taken teaching into heart more than I had realized during my time in Taiwan. I am growing quite fond of my new students, because they are so expressive and impatient! They don't take themselves too seriously and make funny faces when they don't understand me. And yes, they are cute as well.

Last weekend I hopped on to a local bus and headed for San Pedro Sula on my own to meet up with my old Shida (Chinese school) classmates whom are Honduran! Actually, it was partially because of how much I loved them that I choose to volunteer in their homeland. It was around a 4 hour bus ride from La Ceiba, and the bus had no AC and dirty seats but I made it there alive. I actually went with them to the airport on Sunday to see them off as they went back to Taiwan for more years of school! Weird!

So, I guess I'm adjusting. Things are uncomplicated here. Not that my life was complicated before, but like, I don't even need a key to get my house, we just holler and since all the windows are open screened, someone always hears and lets us in. I wake up when sunlight spreads over my room and I am attempting to make tortillas later on. So like, uncomplicated like that. I'm happier than I was last week, and I will be happier next week.

These, my friends, are plantains-disguised as bananas to forever cause confusion.
 Teaching body parts-I only get them to myself for one English class a day! 
  Typical sight everywhere..laundry day all day every day! 
  My new home is on the right. A 'pulperia' store and restaurant are on the left. The beach is ahead. 
Midday reflections at la playa. 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Week One in Honduras

Never in 25 years have I ever felt so far from home. Everything is different here, but my homesickness for Taipei is countered with curiosity for this little township that everyone loves so much. El Porvenir means "the future" in Spanish, which seems like an ironic name for this dusty, tin-shed town.
I'm still culture shocked over the lack of malls, MRTs, bars, 7-11's, cafes, AC, paved roads....but I can fall asleep to the sound of ocean waves outside my window, and buy whole pineapples for 15 lemps (less than a dollar). It's a simpler life for sure, like by a million times. Oh, and Gangsters Paradise plays on the radio here.
I wake up in the morning around 3am from roosters crowing outside my window, and by 7am I'm picking up a little boy named Noe on the way to school. His home is made of wood planks and mud tracks run across his front door. He's small, so I ride him on a bike and we bump along a dirt gravel road, splashing through muddy potholes and past lingering neighbors. Men whistle and yell as they pass by, packed in the back of pick up trucks, and the sun is scorching our foreheads before we make it to the Kinder metal fence.
Our classroom is new and beautiful, a well structured wooden room on cement stilts with open air windows for the breeze to come through. There is no electricity, but sunlight brightens the whole class. It was built recently by a missions team, with lots of nice donated furnishings like colorful plastic chairs, study bookshelves and new crayon boxes. I enjoy being there, and I think the children do too.
The kindergarteners here are no different from any kids aged 4-6ish...they are loud and energetic and love to be held, but some of them come from very poor families in the community. I'm still learning names. They don't speak English, and I don't speak that much Spanish. I'm working on it. Their teacher is a passionate and creative woman, but she speaks no English either so even just helping out gets frustrating sometimes. But like I said, I'm working on it. Next week I'll start English lessons with them, I hope all goes well!
Volunteering at the Kinder is my main responsibility here, but since we are sparse on volunteers at this moment I've also been checking out the older kid's classes, a program called PEP. This is just free English classes for grade school children, since their public schools only have class 3 hours a day and doesn't include English. It's like a 'bushiban' in Taiwan, but the structure is lax-as is with the lifestyle here in general. The kids show up whenever they feel like it, but the ones that do learn a lot!
We have to be inside before night falls, for safety. This means I go to bed around 9-10pm every night! There is nothing open anyways, not even the 'pulperias' (convenience stores) that are scattered around every street corner.
In my spare time, between getting off work and going to bed, I stare at Spanish dictionaries and textbooks and try to cook or workout. I try to meet friendly locals and if I do, I usually stay for a while-grateful for any company! But I mainly go online and live my past life vicariously through others. That past needs to die down eventually, because I don't feel like I'm fully here. Like, I still haven't gone swimming in the beach at my front yard yet. To be fair it's only been a week, but you know...sometimes you need to let go of the past in order to fully embrace what's ahead.
 A warm welcome from my new buddies!
 Morning walk to school
We love photos!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

In case anyone is wondering how I'm getting on in Honduras...

I'm laying on my bunk bed, listening to the rain outside the open screened windows and wondering what I'll have to cook myself for dinner, if the electricity doesn't go out again. Out the front door is a small gravel/dirt road, scattered with ditches and house poo. Small cement houses line the street, some are colorful but all have gates and barbed wires over the property. Chickens run free, as well as stray cats an dogs. Beyond the balcony of the volunteer house is the beach of El Porvenir-a shabby looking beach with lots of abandoned shoes and random fishermen in colorful row boats. I dipped my feet in the Caribbean Sea for the first time earlier. I got a Wifi stick, but it's pretty unreliable. Time doesn't exist here. Restaurants open sometime in the afternoons, people make plans but never name a time, buses are infrequent and there is just a lot of free time, more free time then I know what to do with.
I had expected my surroundings to be like this more or less, but I wasn't ready for all this time of NOTHING-ness. The three other volunteers are perfectly at peace and content with the way things are cause they've been here longer than me and assure me that I'll adjust. But I've NEVER been the type of person to sit still for too long (anyone who knows me at all can vouch for that). They just read a lot of books, lay around drinking tea (no one in the house drinks coffee! What?!) and go online from what I've observed. I feel bad for bothering them all the time, asking them what they're doing, what they'll do later, what they normal do...but the answers don't reassure me. Laundry. Sit. Cook. They are lovely people though! I just need to find ways to entertain myself, or embrace the boredom. I can promise for a fact that I will be blogging on here a lot more. Living here is like living in Yilan, if I was still in Taiwan. The most exciting thing I've done since my arrival was go to the supermarket with roommates to the nearest city-La Ceiba. They go weekly to buy groceries, but since I haven't had to cook in...ever, I had no clue what to buy. I bought bananas. I wanted to stay longer cause the town at least had market stands, some stores and cafes, but my Spanish is not good enough to get around with yet. And unlike Taiwan, not everyone here is willing to help out foreigners without a hidden agenda. I will adapt and I WILL enjoy my time here, but right now I'm not starting off as well as I thought I would. I think I thought I would be busy getting bustled into Honduran family's homes to join them for dinner and celebrations, chatting with locals at cafes, begged to hike and travel around the country with new friends and of course, working with chatty Honduran kids...but that hasn't quite happened yet. YET!
Anyways, that's about it for now. Chin up! I cannot wait for classes to start tomorrow!
Okay one little habit I haven't left behind in Taipei...check out my lunch!! Fried chicken here is phenomenal-I've got nothing bad to say about the food!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

To my Golden Students

Before I more on to Honduras, there's one last post I need to write on Taiwan. This one is for my students.

As I assume most of you know, my occupation while living in Taipei was teaching English. Actually as a kindergarten teacher at Golden American School, I taught all subjects including math, art, science, etc. I have had the privilege of meeting my students as a substitute when they were mere babies in K1, then returning as their teacher from K2 to K3.

In Chinese, the word for 'children' is 小朋有which translates into "little friends". Every day when I walked into the classroom during their breakfast, my students (some still sleepy) would chirp "GOOD MORNING TEACHER KALONG I LOVE YOU" in unison and come running to give me a hug. Imagine starting every day with a siege of children wrapped around around your legs, asking if you've had coffee yet. Nothing is better. No matter how sad, tired, stressed or upset I was, being with my students made everything bearable. They were my little angels, always eager to tell me what they did over the weekend or give me stickers. They never gave me time to think too much-they just wanted to play and sing song and be silly...I would have gone into work every day for free just to see their faces!

Before I met my class, I wasn't sure if I even liked children. Maybe Taiwanese children are an elite group of children, but I wasn't expecting them to be so smart and head strong, so creative and optimistic even though some of them were still peeing their beds! It wasn't hard for my heart to melt and love each of my students for the individuals they were. If I had to describe their collaborative personality in one word, it would be HAPPY. I didn't know that they could make me so happy as well! It was easy to teach them, because they accepted and respected me as one of their own, only taller I guess.

After two years of singing competitions, messy cooking classes, new baby siblings, missing teeth, going from writing ABC's to full sentences, my students graduated last month. They are now attending elementary school as first graders, and must learn how to adjust themselves in a bigger world. As proud of them as I am, it was so hard to let them go. I couldn't believe how quickly they grew up, and I hope they'll be silly and happy forever.

I miss them terribly. Despite all the friends I have in Taipei, my 'little friends' were the ones I saw the most and I adored them. Now next week I get to meet a new class. Only these kids will be Honduran. I have no idea what to expect-I just hope that they are just as cool as my Golden kids. And so it continues...
 "We don't want to say goodbye, we want to stay and play. All we can say in Thank You on our Graduation Day!"
 Each job has it's perks ;)
 This was our poster in front of the school! They wanted to capture the awesomeness.
 My lunch buddies.
 Our outing to the farm! 
 On my last official day.
Good bye my darlings! Go follow your big dreams.