Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Lost in translation

You know how you go to drink something and you expect one thing but the drink is something completely different. You recoil saying "Ugh I thought I was drinking water", but it was really Sprite? Your initial reaction is annoyance, but then you become happy that you now have a delicious Sprite instead of boring water. Well that is how my first days of teaching in Honduras have felt. Let's be honest the first day was a nightmare, but each day gets better and better. I have a feeling this is going to be a true test of my teaching abilities. 

Lost in translation doesn’t even begin to summarize my first three days of school. The last month I have heard stories of my students and how great their English is. Unfortunately, this could not be further from the truth. My students stare at me with this blank look, when I ask them if they understand they say “Yes, Miss” (but they pronounce it Meez). I am left thinking what did they understand and what did they not understand?!? Now, I officially get how I look when local Hondurans speak to me and I’m nodding saying “Si”, only comprehending about 50% of what they say. I guess it comes full circle.

So my first day starts out with a nice little surprise in the window. As I open the window out flies a dead gecko and its detached tail, still moving. Day 1, minute 2 of my first day and all I thinking was that I hope this wasn’t the first bad omen to the school year. 

Oh how I didn't know that one little dead gecko was the least of my worries!

One thing I learned very quickly was there are just social norms that my students follow that are very different than the students in the U.S.:

·        Personal space does not exist between student and teacher. One of my students was trying to get my attention and was petting me as I helped another student. I also had another student pull my face towards them, attempting to kiss me on the lips.
·        When I am talking, my students can’t sit still and look at me. It is as if every child has a small form of ADHD.
·        I tried playing Bingo with my students; they were having the hardest time focusing. I then asked them if they would prefer to do a worksheet, they said YES!! Who chooses worksheets over Bingo??
·        They love to yell. The concept of raising their hand does not exist and usually when they are yelling it is “MEEEZ” (Miss).

There are also many other highlights to my first days of school:
·        Mice running across the tin roof and creating this horrible noise (I equate it to nails going down the chalkboard). It only got worse when my students started yelling “Ratones, Ratones”
·         Stray dogs roaming the school yard for food dropped by the students.
·        At snack and lunch time parents line up against the fence to give their child their food. It looks a bit like family day at a prison.
·        Minerva has 3 school buses, these are actually their version of a mini-van and they are packed to the max. 3 students ride in the front seat, if that gives you an idea how packed these vans are.
·        The office has officially moved 3 times and its last location is the library, which happens to be in this hidden location next to the janitor’s closet. I am still trying to figure out why the administration office is hidden in the back of the school??!!
·        There weren’t enough classrooms this year so they officially split a classroom in half using plywood as the separator. So instead of the classroom being 15’x20’ its 7.5’x10’. I am pretty sure our teacher’s bathroom is bigger than that room.
·        Toilet paper is frequently stolen so it is not provided by the school. You need to bring your own each time you go to the bathroom. This is actually a common norm in Honduras. So it is in good practice to always have toilet paper in your purse!!
·        Each day there are preschool children running around school campus because they have escaped their classroom. They are crying and screaming hysterically because they don’t want to be in school. One of the teachers was actually holding a screaming child while reading a book (I deemed her most brave teacher ever!!)
·        We were officially informed of the school rules this morning at our staff meeting. I am pretty sure those should have been established before school start. This leads into the Central American level of efficiency. Gotta love the “When I get around to it attitude”

A day in the life….pretty entertaining!!
Front wall
The window that my gecko friend was stuck in!!
Oh and don't forget about our gardener...he cuts out grass with a machete.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

As a part of the opening day of our school Minerva, the teachers were asked to sing a song to the students and their parents. When this was presented to me my jaw dropped to the floor. Did I understand, we were supposed to sing a song, like in public, to people? It is one thing to sing in the shower or in your car with the music blaring and windows up, but it is another thing to actually sing in front of people. 

To my relief, I found the other teachers expressed the same feelings. No one wanted to sing a song, but the kicker was the song... We were asked to sing "Imagine" by the Beatles. A song which talks about no Heaven or Hell and not to mention very challenging to sing if you can't easily identify the correct note to be singing in (that would be me). However, the other teachers and I decided we did not want to sing that song because it just didn’t sit well with us. So we settled on “Lean on Me”. I mean who doesn’t know the tune and the words to such a classic song?

We decided the best way to practice was to put ourselves in the most enjoyable environment, a roof top deck with some wine and beer. So imagine 10 gringos singing American music while enjoying a few cocktails? Can’t beat the entertainment here!

Our performance was this morning and in our eyes we were happy to get it over with. There are many things lost between cultures but I can say this song was the epitome of being lost. 
So without further delay, here is the video of us singing “Lean on Me”. I hope you get as much of a laugh as I did seeing how awkward we all are! (The video is having a hard time uploading. So if it doesn't appear below I will try and resubmit or put on Facebook.)

Friday, August 19, 2011

Oh dogs...

I have officially developed a love/hate relationship with dogs. It is so sad to think this, even write it, but it is a harsh reality living down here in Central America.
During my frequent trips into town, which are about a 15 minute walk, I see roughly 7-10 stray/homeless dogs. They are skinny and flea and tick infested (I only know they are infested because every few feet they stop to scratch). It is a sad sight and for the most part they leave people alone because let’s be honest people aren’t very nice to them.
I was told that if a dog is bothering you pick up a rock and pretend to throw it at them and they will run away. Dogs are used to people throwing rocks at them, kicking them and hitting them with cars. I know what you are thinking, it sounds horribly mean to pretend to throw a rock at them, but it saved me twice from getting bitten. There are some dogs, which are very territorial and have lunged at me to bite me while on my evening runs. So as you can imagine I run carrying a rock now.

Now to the love part…
My roommates and I came home one day and found in our yard a tiny emaciated puppy, which was on the verge of dying. Now picture this, 8 girls and a dying puppy in our yard. You can only imagine the “ohhhh’s” and the “what are we going to do’s” that were exchanged.  We wondered at what point would we come out to our yard and find this little thing dead. It was only a matter of day’s even hours. So of course the mother instinct kicks in all of us and we take on mother/veterinarian/savior role to save this dog. We tried feeding her bread, chicken, turkey, carrots, even Doritos, but she wasn’t interested. All she wanted was to die in peace. Well she picked the wrong yard to attempt to die in.

Thankfully another dog loving teacher came to the rescue and mentioned that the pharmacy has a shot that you give the dog and it kills amebas, fleas, ticks, worms, you name it, it kills it, and the kicker is that it only cost $1. You tell me what vet in the U.S. would give your dog a shot to kill all that for a dollar?!?
So as we waited for this shot to kick in, we named her Esperanza (which means hope in Spanish). It was either all uphill for this dog or she was a goner in 2 days max. But as her named proved right, we woke up to find her wagging her tail and ready to actually eat her first meal.
Esperanza has become the mascot of the Gringas. She follows us to and from school. She goes between the upstairs and downstairs, never wanting to miss out on anything. She even whimpers her heart out when we leave her at home to go to school. 

Here is Esperanza hanging out in my classroom. 

Looks like we adopted a stray. Oops!! 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

My classroom

It is official I have my classroom. Now when I say classroom, I mean a room with 4 walls, lots of bugs and enough dust to choke small child. But a classroom is a classroom right?

No one ever said it was going to be glamorous :-)

One has to appreciate the plywood pieces boarded together to create my back wall. 

Oh and don't forget about the little caterpillar that lives on my windowsill. I am hoping we have a good year together. 

 I am hoping with a little magic and a dash of patience I will have my classroom up to par...or at least presentable for my little third graders by the end of next week. 

Friday, August 12, 2011

Tela y Punta Sal

The joys of traveling in Central America: expect the unexpected.

Our first night in Tela we stayed in these beautiful huts on the beach. But let’s be honest we are poor, broke teachers and we decided to switch hostels in hopes of saving some money and to be closer to the town center. Unfortunately, hostel number two was VERY dodgy. Bed bugs, stains, broken windows, broken shower, if it wasn’t broken it was dirty and on its way to being broken. But we threw our bags down and decided to head out on the town to get some liquid courage to sleep in those beds.

We enjoyed our ceviche, coconut shrimp and Salva Vida beers and then headed back to our hostel. I will be honest I slept with a rain coat on, possibly a bit dramatic but at least I slept. I tried to keep my mind on the positive; the next morning I would be heading to Punta Sal to see howler monkeys and go snorkeling.

In the morning we took a 45 minute boat ride to Punta Sal, a peninsula on the Honduras coast. It has numerous animal species, in particular Howler and white faced monkey’s which, we encountered. As we walked, we spotted some howler monkeys in a face-off with a white face monkey over territory. Apparently they are one of the loudest animals in the animal kingdom. It was so loud when they were yelling at the white faced monkey, but definitely one of the coolest noises.

We ended our trip with a little snorkeling, drinking coconut milk on the beach and eating fresh caught fish. It was the perfect end to our day.

Our last and final hostel was definitely a step up from the previous night but we later learned it was commonly used for prostitutes. Guess you can’t win ‘em all!  

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Cold shower..okay. Bugs...not okay

The Latin American easy going mindset is definitely something to get used to. I have learned fairly quickly that if you ask you shall receive…when they can get around to it. We have patiently been awaiting hot water since our arrival but have yet to receive it. A cold shower can be refreshing after a long day walking around town in the hot sun. But when it is ice cold water from the river and it takes your breath away when you splash it on yourself, you tend to question the easy going mindset. So we are hoping for hot water today, but I won’t hold my breath.

The one thing I am hoping to get more easy going about are the bugs. If it’s not ants, it’s spiders and if it’s not cockroaches it’s beetles. Unlike in American where bugs are small to average size, their NBA and NFL siblings are down here larger than life. The people here average 5’2 and their bugs are not far behind them in length.

Here is a smashed cockroach on the street about the third the size of my foot. Now if he isn’t king of cockroaches, then I don’t even want to know what is. 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Small things

There is something to be said for hoop jumping, it makes you stronger. My first 24 hours in Honduras were quite adventure filled. Between the 3 airplane rides, smoking plane, thunderstorms, sketchy airport, a 4 hour car ride (which by the way I am pretty sure Mario Kart was designed based on Hondurian drivers avoiding pot holes rather than banana peels), I am so happy to be here.
I live in an 8 bedroom house with 7 other girls…I am hoping for the least amount of drama that comes with living with girls, but I won’t hold my breath. We live in one of the nicer neighborhoods of Gracias, which makes it a little less noisy compared to the center of town. However, our area is not short of livestock, so my alarm clock is a couple of roosters and a few stray dogs rising with the sun.
Here is a view from outside my bedroom window. I live in the smallest room in the entire house but I lucked out with the best view, which I find as a fair trade off. Especially since the only thing I hae in my room is a twin bed and a”closet” (a rope strung from one side of the room to the other for hanging clothes).
Ahh the simple life I will lead for the next eleven months. In one day I have realized how to appreciate the small things.